The legal community considers a birth injury to be any injury to the baby or mother that occurs during pregnancy, childbirth or shortly after birth as a result of medical negligence
Specifically, a birth defect is usually considered a condition that a baby develops in the womb as a result of their genetics, an infection, or exposure to toxins. A birth injury may also sometimes be referred to as a birth trauma, which refers specifically to any damage of tissues or organs of a newly delivered baby, often due to the physical pressure or trauma experienced during birth.
Giving birth is a time that requires you to place an enormous amount of trust in your medical team, making any injury due to medical negligence particularly devastating and confusing. Negligence during childbirth can lead to lifelong conditions, such as cerebral palsy. Failing to diagnose or failing to treat diseases such as jaundice or low blood sugar are also common occurrences that can lead to further complications.
If you or your child has suffered a birth-related injury as a result of medical negligence, our expert medical negligence team is here to help. We have years of experience in cases of medical negligence, many of which are related to a birth defect (congenital disability). We understand that a birth injury can leave a family, feeling angry or vulnerable. The psychological and emotional effects of negligence birth injury are often just as harmful as the physical effects, which is why we want to guide you at every step of the process. We ensure that your claim is handled professionally by a specialised team of solicitors, while also working with medical experts to ensure the best results for your family.
Birth injury facts and statistics
Currently, the NHS is highly focused on improving services for expectant parents and newborn babies, as birth injury claims account for 50% of total claims against the NHS in terms of value, despite being only 10% of overall claims.
The NHS is concerned with the number of children suffering a brain injury during childbirth. According to the CQC maternity services report (2017), it is also estimated that the care for children with brain injuries who have complex care needs as a result of medical negligence during birth, could cost the NHS £20million per child.
Last year, thanks to NHS data, researchers at the Neonatal Data Analysis Unit at Imperial College London and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust were able to analyse data on babies born between 2010 and 2015 to assess how common brain injuries in babies are sustained during or soon after birth. The research estimated that 3,418 babies suffered conditions linked to brain injury at or soon after birth in 2015, which equates to 5 babies in 1000.
To advise on how to reduce brain injuries during birth, the Each Baby Counts inquiry investigated 1,136 stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries that occurred on UK maternity units during 2015. The report found that failure to monitor a baby’s heart rate during labour could point to a higher likelihood of a child suffering a brain injury.
Mothers are also at risk during childbirth, but a recent report suggests that your postcode could dictate your care. According to The National Maternity and Perinatal Audit's report, women are twice as likely to suffer serious blood loss and severe tears during childbirth in some hospitals.
Birth injuries to babies
Despite being one of the safest places to give birth, babies in the UK are still vulnerable to injury during birth. Childbirth poses many risks for the unborn baby, particularly if there has been any mismanagement of the mother’s medical care through the pregnancy or during labour.
Incorrect treatments, failure to diagnose or treat conditions, or a mistake in medication are just some forms of negligence that can befall a newborn baby. Common conditions that arise as a result of medical negligence to infants include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Brain injury
- Fractures or cuts
- Erb’s palsy
In some cases, childbirth complications can result in stillbirth or death following birth. In these cases, it can be truly difficult to approach a solicitor for help. Our team is trained to deal with all matters sensitively, to offer advice and guidance through the process of seeking answers and the appropriate damages following such a devastating loss.
Group B Strep (GBS)
In 2017 a BBC investigation into avoidable baby deaths found that a baby in 2015 died within hours of being born of hypoxia and Group B Strep. Group B Step is a bacterial infection that is found in the vagina or rectum. It is thought to affect 25% of healthy women. Unfortunately, there is a small risk of pregnant women passing this onto their children during childbirth. When left untreated, it can cause babies life-threatening complications.
Birth injuries to mothers
While it is quite common for mothers to expect recovery time following labour, complications or serious injuries to a new mother’s body due to medical negligence can have far-reaching consequences. An injury sustained during birth can limit a mother’s first experiences with her new baby, delay a future return to work and affect their relationship with their body in the future. In some difficult cases, injuries can be permanent.
Some examples of injuries may include:
- Perineal tears or internal damage– there are various degrees of tear, and if a third or fourth-degree tear is incorrectly treated or ignored, it could be grounds for a claim.
- Injuries following C-Section errors
- Injuries after the use of vacuum delivery or forceps
- Infections acquired from mishandled stitching
These are just some injuries a mother may experience; your experience may be different. Our team can advise you on your situation, and help you to claim the appropriate damages.
Preterm Prelabour Rupture of Membranes (PPROM)
Premature rupture of membranes could be termed the early ‘breaking of the waters.’ If this happens before 37 weeks of gestation, it can be dangerous for mother and baby. If mismanaged by your healthcare team, this could constitute negligence.