Glossary of
Birth Injury Terms


One of the most difficult things to deal with for a parent is when a child is born with a birth injury or special needs. Parents are often confused as to what is the next step due to the fact in some instances hospitals and doctors provide very little information as to not only the injury, but as to the cause. A Maryland medical malpractice attorney can investigate and help you understand whether the doctors departed from good and acceptable medical care.


For many parents, discovering that a baby is on the way creates joy and happiness. During the journey over the next several months, doctors and nurses will assist the family in ensuring that the baby enters the world as heathy as ever. To do this, doctors will not only perform physical examinations, but will use certain tests to monitor the baby’s wellbeing. Some parents are familiar with the use of the electronic fetal heart monitor, which is used to monitor the baby’s heart rate and mother’s contracts during labor and delivery. However, there are other tests that doctors will perform along the way which are also helpful in determining the overall health of the baby.


Brachial Plexus Palsy is a type of birth injury in which a child’s arm is injured during birth. Like Erb’s Palsy, Brachial Plexus Palsy can be the result of a shoulder dystocia emergency and complication during delivery. When the nerves in a child’s neck or shoulder area (the brachial plexus) are injured, injury to the child’s arm will be present. It is very important that when an injury like this occurs, parents get as much information as possible regarding their child’s condition, and future treatment.


Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects the body’s movement and muscle coordination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood. In addition, data reveals that cerebral palsy is more common in boys than it is in girls, with many children, boys and girls, suffering from spastic cerebral palsy (stiff feeling and jerky movements).


One of the main causes of a birth injury can be due to the failure, or delay in performing a C Section. There are many factors which go into making the determination as to whether to perform a C Section and when the procedure should be done. Doctors must pay close attention to mother and baby during the labor and delivery. In some cases, the mother’s medical history will be an important factor to be weighed in determining the proper course of treatment.


A delay in diagnosis or a delay in treatment can have a devastating impact on you or your loved one. A delay in treatment or diagnosis is a break in medical intervention leading to the exacerbation of the condition of the person seeking medical treatment.


Erb’s Palsy is a type of birth injury. One of the main issues which have to be analyzed in these types of cases is whether there was a shoulder dystocia emergency present in the emergency room. Children who suffer Erb’s Palsy hav an injury to their arm. This injury can sometimes be corrected through training exercises, but in some cases, the child’s arm will be paralyzed.


Fetal distress is a term that has historically been used to describe a condition in which the baby does not get enough oxygen. During labor and delivery, doctors and nurses can use certain tools, such as the electronic fetal heart monitor, to help them monitor how well a baby is tolerating a vaginal delivery. If “non-reassuring” patterns are detected on the monitor, and persist for a considerable amount of time, doctors must be prepared to move to an emergency C-section to help the baby.


Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy at its basic level focuses on the lack of blood and oxygen in the tissue. When this occurs, developmental delays and other types of brain injuries can occur, like cerebral palsy. According to some data, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy accounts for around 23% of neonatal deaths worldwide. Because of the serious nature of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, many parents have serious concerns regarding the challenges their child will face in the future.


Klumpke’s palsy is also another type of birth injury that a child can suffer. Like Erb’s Palsy and Brachial Plexus Palsy, Klumpke’s Palsy is a type of injury to the nerves in the neck or shoulder area. Mothers often complain of a shoulder dystocia complication during delivery. A proper analysis must be made to determine whether the actions of the doctors and other medical staff in the delivery room fell below the standard of care. When Klumpke’s Palsy is present, the child has an injury to usually the forearm and hand.


As a baby moves around in the mother’s womb, the umbilical cord can become knotted. If this happens, then there is a threat for a reduced level of blood and oxygen in the baby. When a baby’s oxygen level gets too low, then fetal hypoxia can occur. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, which is a reduced level of blood and oxygen, leading to a brain injury, can be the result of a knotted umbilical cord. A subsequent cerebral palsy diagnosis can also be the result of a brain injury.


In general, meconium is the baby’s stool. It is a buildup of the materials a baby ingests during the growth process in the womb. Meconium can vary in color but is usually dark green. However, the substance can also display colors such as brown and yellow. For many babies, meconium will not be passed until after birth. However, when babies pass meconium it gets absorbed into the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. Doctors and nurses can tell that a baby has passed meconium because when the water is broken, the substance will be present in the fluid. Meconium, along with other factors, can reveal signs that the baby may be in distress and is having trouble with a vaginal delivery. Due to the fact meconium can be deadly for a child if swallowed (can block airways and lead to respiratory problems), doctors will immediately clear the substance from the nose and mouth of the baby following delivery. An examination by doctors following birth will seek to determine whether meconium is present past the baby’s vocal cords, increasing the risk of meconium aspiration syndrome.


A nuchal cord occurs when the umbilical cord loops around the neck of the baby. Nuchal cords can be dangerous because they can lead to a decreased level of blood and oxygen in the baby. When the umbilical cord grows longer than usual, the risk of a nuchal cord increases. In addition, nuchal cords are often seen most in boys. Add a longer cord than normal, plus an active baby during pregnancy, and the risk of a nuchal cord can increase.


The body has a natural hormone called oxytocin which is used to cause a woman’s uterus to contract. Pitocin is a drug that is used to artificially mimic oxytocin and cause a woman’s uterus to contract. Contractions are the body’s way to guide the baby through the birth canal and through delivery. Doctors will administer Pitocin through an IV. Gradually the amount is increased until the right amount of contractions is reached. Remember, the point of Pitocin is to artificially start your contractions. With that said, doctors must be sure that your body is ready to have the baby. In other words, your cervix must be prepared to have the baby. Pitocin does not do anything to prepare the cervix for delivery.


The placenta develops inside the mother’s body and provides important nutrients to the baby. In addition, the umbilical cord develops from the placenta and in the first trimester, the placenta grows faster than the baby. In most pregnancies, the placenta will grow either from the top or side of the uterus. When the placenta grows and either partially covers the cervix, or completely covers the cervix, this is called placenta previa. For mothers dealing with placenta previa one of the most serious risks is that of bleeding. The bleeding can occur during pregnancy and/or during labor and delivery.


Placental abruption is a serious pregnancy complication. The condition occurs when the placenta either completely, or partially detaches from the wall of the uterus before the baby is delivered. When placental abruption occurs, there is a threat of massive bleeding by mother. This in turn can lead to a reduced level of blood and oxygen flowing to the baby. For many mothers, placental abruption is a sudden onset, and if left untreated, can cause injury to mother and baby. Although placental abruption can occur early in the pregnancy, it usually occurs during labor and delivery, as this is a time of extreme stress.


Preeclampsia is a medical condition that can occur during pregnancy. Not only can preeclampsia cause serious injury to the mother, it can also have devastating effects on the baby. Preeclampsia can be characterized by an increase in the mother’s blood pressure, with damage to other organs in the body such as the kidneys and liver. For many women, preeclampsia will start at around 20 weeks of pregnancy with the mother’s blood pressure previously normal. However, suddenly the blood pressure becomes elevated, even slightly.


A seizure is an electrical disturbance in the brain which can lead to shaking, jerking, and even a temporary loss of consciousness. However, sometimes, seizures in babies can be subtle. Therefore, it is important to know the different types of seizures that a baby can suffer from.


Shoulder dystocia is a delivery room emergency. What happens in a shoulder dystocia case is that the baby’s shoulder is trapped behind the mother’s pelvis during delivery. This ca create panic in th delivery room because if the baby is not freed in time, he or she can die. Doctors are taught not to panic in these kinds of situations and use the multiple maneuvers they are taught to help free the baby. A very important fact regarding the use of these maneuvers is that pressure on the child’s head is not needed.


During a vaginal delivery, the baby is usually delivered first. However, sometimes the umbilical cord is delivered before the baby comes out. When this occurs, the medical condition is called umbilical cord prolapse. An umbilical cord prolapse can create a dangerous situation in the delivery room. This is because the cord can become compressed as the baby passes through the birth canal. The umbilical cord is responsible for providing important nutrients to the baby, including blood and oxygen.


Uterine rupture is a serious complication during labor and delivery. It occurs when the uterine wall is detached or compromised in some way. During a uterine rupture, the contents can spill into the abdominal cavity, causing serious harm to mother and baby. The harm to the baby can stem from oxygen related issues such as fetal hypoxia or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Because the lack of oxygen can lead to brain damage in a baby, a uterine rupture can in some cases lead to a cerebral palsy diagnosis in a baby later down the line. Parents may be “tipped off” to a possible brain injury when the child is blue in color, must be taken to the NICU, and suffers seizures. Seizures are an important finding. Doctors must be ready to perform an emergency C-Section when uterine ruptures present due to the risk of fetal hypoxia.


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