Birth Injury FAQs

Fact-Checked and Medically Reviewed by:
Katie Lavender, RN Registered Nurse
Quick Answer

If your child has been diagnosed with a birth injury, you may have questions about treatment and prognosis. Birth injuries vary in scope and severity, and it is important for your child to receive proper care from a medical professional. Some birth injuries are considered relatively minor and resolve themselves within a few days or weeks. Others are more severe, and symptoms can last for years or even a lifetime. Unfortunately, medical negligence or improper medical care can directly lead to birth injuries.

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Understanding Birth Injuries

It is natural for parents of a child diagnosed with a brain injury to have questions and concerns. Learning that your child has been injured during the birthing process is a very distressing experience that can immediately leave you with more questions than answers.

You may be wondering if your child will follow the traditional developmental path. If your child has been diagnosed with a severe brain injury, you may be wondering what the treatment and rehabilitation process will look like. These are common questions for parents of a child diagnosed with a birth injury.

It is important to remember that each birth injury is unique, and the symptoms that are presented in another birth injury case may differ from the symptoms your own child displays.

What is a Birth Injury?

A birth injury is an injury to a baby during childbirth or directly after the delivery process. There are several different types of birth injuries.

Physical injuries can occur when a physician or nurse uses forceps or vacuum extraction methods during delivery. These methods can cause physical injury to the infant’s head or neck, causing brain injury or nerve damage.

Fractures of the clavicle or collarbone or damage to the nerves in the neck can cause Erb’s palsy. Oxygen deprivation is another common cause of birth injuries. Lack of oxygen during pregnancy can cause brain damage and long-lasting neurological problems.

Will My Child Get Better?

Your child’s prognosis depends on the type and severity of the injury suffered. Some infants who suffer birth injuries recover to live normal lives. Erb’s palsy is an example of a birth injury with a strong recovery. Over 80% of infants with Erb’s palsy make a complete recovery from the nerve condition.

Other birth injuries are more severe and can cause debilitating symptoms that may last a lifetime. Cerebral palsy is an example of a birth injury that often causes lifelong symptoms.

Virtually all birth injuries have treatment and rehabilitation options. With continuing care, many children with birth injuries can go on to live healthy and productive lives.

Was My Child’s Injury Preventable?

Unfortunately, many birth injuries caused by medical negligence could have been prevented.

For instance, a negligent medical professional may not have monitored your child’s oxygen levels during delivery, missing signs of infant distress and lack of oxygen, that lead to a birth injury that could have been prevented.

A doctor who uses forceps or vacuum extraction during delivery may also inadvertently cause a physical injury to the child.

What is an Intellectual Disability?

An intellectual disability is a neurological impairment that affects an individual’s ability to think, make decisions, and communicate. Intellectual disabilities are caused by a wide range of factors. These factors can be genetic, but sometimes they are birth injuries that directly impact the brain.

Intellectual disability is considered a separate and more severe condition than a developmental delay. Some developmental delays are linked to a learning disability. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, about 10% of all children have some form of learning disability. However, only about 1% to 3% have an intellectual disability.

Causes of Intellectual Disabilities

Intellectual disabilities have a variety of different causes. They can be caused by genetic factors, such as chromosomal abnormalities. They can also be caused by exposure to toxins, such as lead and mercury. Exposure to illicit drugs like amphetamines is also a cause.

Intellectual disabilities can also be caused by physical trauma before, during, or after the delivery process. In cases of physical trauma, the resulting intellectual disability may be the direct consequence of medical malpractice.

What is Placental Abruption?

Placental abruption is a rare but serious pregnancy complication. In a placental abruption, the placenta separates from the inner uterine wall before delivery. This may be a partial or complete separation. This process can deprive the infant of oxygen and nutrients that are vital to fetal development. It can also cause the mother to experience heavy bleeding.

Often, placental abruption will happen suddenly and without any warning. Signs of placental abruption are bright red vaginal bleeding, abdominal and/or back pain, uterine contractions, and a rigid and tender abdomen. Sometimes, the contractions are very intense and back-to-back, without long breaks in between.

Most cases of placental abruption happen without any explainable cause. If it is not treated immediately, the mother and baby can be in danger.

Unfortunately, there are cases of doctors misdiagnosing the problem. A misdiagnosis can prevent immediate treatment that can save the baby and mother from serious complications.

Nurse’s Note:

When placental abruption occurs, a medical team must immediately perform an emergency C-section. Each minute from discovery to delivery is crucial, as it means oxygen deprivation for the infant. Rapid response can save lives without serious damage. Neglect or oversight, however, risks infant death or lifelong neurological complications.

Placental Abruption Causes

Placental abruption can be caused by several different factors.

These risk factors include:

  • Cigarette use
  • Cocaine use
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Water breaking before 37 weeks
  • Abruption in a previous pregnancy
  • Pregnant with twins, triplets, or more
  • Physical trauma due to vehicular accident or physical abuse

Get Answers to Your Birth Injury Questions

Your child’s prognosis depends on the scope and severity of the birth injury. Nerve conditions such as Erb’s palsy have high rates of recovery. On the other hand, infant brain damage due to oxygen deprivation often causes lifelong physical and neurological disability.

No two birth injuries are exactly alike, so it is important to make sure your child receives a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. After your child’s birth injury has been diagnosed, your primary doctor will be able to provide a clearer outlook on your child’s rehabilitation and recovery.

Birth Injury Support Team
Reviewed by:Katie Lavender, RN

Registered Nurse

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Katie Lavender has over 8 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in postpartum mother/baby care. With hands-on experience in Labor and Delivery and a role as a Community Educator for newborn care, Katie is a staunch advocate for patient rights and education. As a Medical Reviewer, she is committed to ensuring accurate and trustworthy patient information.

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View Sources
  1. Cartwright, C. C., & Wallace, D. C. (2017). Nursing care of the pediatric neurosurgery patient. Cham: Springer.
  2. Leventhal, H. R. (1960). Birth injuries of the spinal cord. The Journal of Pediatrics, 56(4), 447–453. Retrieved December 15, 2023, from
  3. Reichard, R. (2008). Birth Injury of the Cranium and Central Nervous System. Brain Pathology, 18(4), 565–570. Retrieved December 15, 2023, from