Birth Injury Statistics

Quick Answer

The number of children born with birth injuries in the United States is staggering: about 7 of every 1,000 babies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of these injuries could have been prevented with proper care. View common birth injury statistics below and get help from our team if your child suffered.

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Per 1000 Births Occur in 7 per 1,000 Births

General Birth Injury Statistics

There are several common birth injuries that can impact an infant, including Erb’s palsy, cerebral palsy, and many others. It can be hard to fully grasp just how big of a problem birth injuries can be. But if you know some of the statistics, you can get a much better idea.

Knowing the facts can help you make more informed decisions regarding the health of your child.

Here are some general birth injury statistics:

  • The most common birth injury is a fractured collarbone, according to Stanford Children’s Health. These fractures occur in as many as 15 out of 1,000 live births.
  • If the brain is injured at birth, it can lead to cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood motor disability, according to the CDC. Cerebral palsy occurs in 1.5 to 4 children per every 1,000 births.
  • Erb’s palsy is a type of birth injury that limits the use of the arm, shoulder, and hand. 12,000 babies born each year develop Erb’s palsy due to an injury at birth, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
  • Genetic, environmental, and socioeconomic factors, along with medical malpractice, all play a role in causing birth injuries.

If your baby suffered harm due to medical negligence, a birth injury lawyer may be able to help you pursue compensation for medical bills, treatment, and more. Contact us for a free case review today.

Statistics on Birth Injury Causes

There are many causes of birth injuries. These are just a few.

  • Delayed birth: About 8% of women go through delayed birth, also referred to as prolonged labor. Risk factors include a high body mass index, or gaining a significant amount of weight during pregnancy. Infants can have a difficult time moving through the birth canal in a delayed birth, and can suffer nerve or muscle damage as a result.
  • Oxygen deprivation: A lack of oxygen at birth can damage a baby’s brain, which can lead to severe conditions like cerebral palsy. About 2 of every 1,000 infants suffer oxygen deprivation, according to the University of Oxford.
  • Improper use of delivery tools: Doctors may sometimes rely on tools such as vacuum extractors or forceps to help deliver a baby. However, improper use of these delivery tools can lead to birth injuries and could be considered medical malpractice. For example, vacuum extraction causes subgaleal hemorrhage — a possibly deadly brain bleed — in .6% of cases.
  • Monitoring and delivery issues: Failure to catch severe health problems before birth is another type of medical malpractice. Physicians will sometimes fail to monitor expectant mothers correctly, missing potentially severe complications. In an insurance company study, almost half (40%) of birth injury liability claims involved poor management of labor and delivery. Most of these claims were made after a vaginal birth (as opposed to a cesarean section) proved to be more dangerous for the mother and baby.
Nurse Beth Carter

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Who Is at Risk of Developing a Birth Injury?

Any child can be born with a birth injury. That said, some factors increase the odds.

Risk factors for birth injuries include:

  • Premature births: It is estimated that 9.8% of all newborns are preterm births. Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy have a higher risk of birth injury because their brain, muscles, and nervous system have not yet fully developed. For example, premature babies have a greater chance of developing a gastrointestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
  • Low birth weight: Preterm births are also associated with low birth weight. 8.2% of all newborns are born weighing less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces, which puts them at greater risk of problems during delivery. It is estimated that the percentage of babies born prematurely or with a low birth weight is increasing in the United States.
  • Exposure to toxins: Toxins such as methylmercury are extremely dangerous for expectant mothers, as they can damage the developing brain of the newborn child.
    One of the most common means of exposure to methylmercury is eating fish contaminated with it.
  • Physical trauma: Physical trauma, such as excessive force from a doctor during delivery, can cause severe damage to a newborn’s head, neck and shoulders. This can directly lead to brain damage or nerve injuries such as Erb’s palsy.

Cerebral Palsy Statistics

Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the most common disabilities in infants. It makes it very difficult for the brain to control the nervous and muscular systems. CP typically develops because of brain damage that can occur either before or during the delivery of a baby.

How Often Does Cerebral Palsy Occur?

4 out of 1,000 babies are born with cerebral palsyIt is estimated that up to 4 out of 1,000 children have cerebral palsy. Congenital CP (when the condition is present at birth) makes up 85-90% of all cases, according to the CDC. It affects boys more often than girls.

In the United States alone, nearly 1 million people are living with cerebral palsy. Further, the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF) notes that approximately 17 million people across the world are living with some form of CP.

Statistics on Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors

Maternal health, infant health, and socioeconomic status are all significant risk factors for CP. The following is a brief look at some of the numbers associated with these factors.

  • Maternal infection: Infection during pregnancy is linked with higher rates of CP. In a study of 6 million births over an 11-year period, an infection diagnosis was more than twice as common in mothers of the 8,473 infants with cerebral palsy than in mothers of unaffected children (13.7% vs. 5.5%).
  • Infant health: Babies with illnesses that affect brain development are at an increased risk for CP. One example is jaundice, which affects 60-80% of newborns. When left untreated, severe jaundice can cause kernicterus, a rare but permanent form of brain damage that occurs in 1 of every 44,000 newborns from developed countries.
  • Socioeconomic status: According to one study, 30% of CP cases are attributable to economic inequality. The study’s authors believe that pregnant women with lower incomes may not have access to quality prenatal health care.

If your child was diagnosed with CP, speak with one of our registered nurses to learn what might have caused it.

Statistics on Cerebral Palsy Types

There are five main types of CP: spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, hypotonic, and mixed.

  • Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of the condition. It appears in 70% to 80% of all people diagnosed with cerebral palsy, according to the CPARF. It causes extreme tension in the muscles and can lead to paralysis in two limbs, all four limbs or half the body.
  • Dyskinetic CP leads to random body movements and is found in 5-20% of those diagnosed with CP.
  • Ataxic CP makes walking very difficult, and affects other motor skills as well. It occurs in 5-10% of all people with cerebral palsy.
  • Hypotonic CP causes floppy muscles (hypotonia) and is one of the rarest types of CP, accounting for 2.6% of all cases.
  • Mixed CP is a combination of at least two other types of CP caused by damage to multiple areas of the brain. Around 15% of all people with CP are diagnosed with this type.

Cerebral Palsy Treatment Statistics

There are no known cures for cerebral palsy at this time. Fortunately, there are some approaches that show promise in treating CP. Here are just a few.

  • Physical therapy (PT): PT attempts to improve motor functions. It typically includes exercises to increase range of motion, strengthen muscles, and improve balance. According to one study, PT can increase a child’s mobility by as much as 13%.
  • Surgery: Many surgeries can be used to treat the symptoms of CP and improve mobility. One procedure, known as dorsal rhizotomy, has been shown to be effective for some people suffering from CP. According to one analysis, significant improvements occurred in up to 70% of patients. The procedure involves the removal of a thin layer of bone, as well as some nerves, from the spine.
  • Medications: Certain medications to help reduce spasticity or improve movement have been shown to be effective in helping address the symptoms of CP. Some of these CP medications include diazepam, baclofen, and botulinum toxin type A.

Erb’s Palsy Statistics

A little girl plays with toys on a rug.Erb’s palsy is an injury that affects the brachial plexus. This is a grouping of nerves that extends from the neck through the shoulders and arms. Any sort of damage to the brachial plexus can result in severe weakness. Those with severe Erb’s palsy won’t be able to use the affected arm without treatment.

How Often Does Erb’s Palsy Occur?

Erb’s palsy occurs in approximately 1-3 of every 1,000 births, making it the most common type of brachial plexus injury.

Statistics on Erb’s Palsy Risk Factors

1-3 out of every 1,000 babies are born with Erb's palsyThere are several risk factors that can increase the chances of a child developing Erb’s palsy.

The most common risk factor for Erb’s palsy is shoulder dystocia, where one or both of the baby’s shoulders gets caught in the mother’s pelvis during delivery. Brachial plexus injury occurs in about 1-20% of shoulder dystocia cases.

When shoulder dystocia injures a baby’s brachial plexus nerves, it can cause Erb’s palsy.

Another risk factor for Erb’s palsy is the use of forceps or a vacuum instrument during delivery. Improper use of these delivery tools can increase the risk of a collarbone fracture.

Researchers conducting a study of more than 11,000 deliveries found that 53% of infants whose collarbones were fractured during the birthing process also developed Erb’s palsy.

The same researchers found that the risk of Erb’s palsy declined substantially among children born through a C-section.

Brachial Plexus Injury Statistics

There are four main types of brachial plexus injuries: Erb’s palsy, extended Erb’s palsy, total plexus involvement, and Klumpke’s palsy. The following is some information on each condition, as well as its prevalence.

  • Erb’s palsy: Erb’s palsy accounts for 45% to 50% of all brachial plexus palsy cases. It is associated with damage to the nerves at the C5 to C6 sections of the spine.
  • Extended Erb’s palsy: This form of Erb’s palsy typically affects the lower portion of the brachial plexus (the C7 section of the spine). It makes up an estimated 20% of brachial plexus injuries.
  • Total plexus involvement: This is a particularly devastating birth injury that damages all of the muscles in not only the shoulder and arm, but also the hand and fingers. It accounts for about 35% of brachial plexus injuries. Total plexus involvement affects nerves between the C5 and T1 sections of the spine.
  • Klumpke’s palsy: The rarest type of brachial plexus injury, it accounts for less than 1% of brachial plexus injuries. It involves damage to the C8 to T1 sections of the spine. Damage is typically limited to the muscles of the forearm and hand.

Brachial plexus birth injuries can be categorized according to the type of nerve injury and the pattern of nerves involved:

  • Avulsion (only makes up 10-20% of injuries)
  • Neuroma
  • Neuropraxia (most common)
  • Ruptures

Erb’s Palsy Treatment Statistics

Unlike cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy is curable in many cases. Approximately 67% of babies recover fully without the need for treatment. Further, if treatment starts within a month after birth, the recovery rate increases to nearly 100%.

Treatment for Erb’s palsy usually involves some sort of physical therapy. This leads to significant improvement in nearly 95% of cases.

However, if this approach does not work, there is the possibility that a surgical procedure like a nerve graft or muscle transfer will be needed. Approximately 50% of Erb’s palsy surgeries will prove successful.

Statistics on Birth Injuries and Co-Occurring Conditions

A little girl in a wheelchair plays with a toy.There are many issues that go hand in hand with birth injuries. These issues affect different parts of a person’s mobility, speech, and mental abilities. When a child has another condition in addition to cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy, it is known as a co-occurring condition.

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation states:

  • 1 in 2 children born with cerebral palsy will also have an intellectual disability
  • 1 in 3 will have extremely limited or no walking ability
  • 1 in 4 will be unable to speak
  • 1 in 4 will have epilepsy and accompanying seizures
  • 1 in 4 will have bladder control problems
  • 1 in 5 will have a sleep disorder
  • 3 in 4 will experience lifelong, chronic pain
  • 1 in 10 will have notable vision issues

Those with Erb’s palsy can have co-occurring health problems as well. As previously mentioned, over 50% of babies who suffer fractured collarbones during delivery also develop Erb’s palsy.

Financial and Legal Birth Injury Statistics

Birth injuries that lead to CP, Erb’s palsy, and other health issues can be incredibly expensive. Not only are treatment costs high, but parents may need to make special accommodations to their home in order to help their child live as normal a life as possible.

The costs associated with CP are particularly staggering.

  • It can cost 10 times as much to care for a child with this condition than one who does not have it.
  • When a child has CP in conjunction with an intellectual disability, the costs can be 26 times as high.

However, parents may have an option to obtain compensation to cover the medical costs of birth injuries. If their child’s injury occurred due to medical negligence, they may be able file a birth injury lawsuit.

According to one study, the average payout for medical malpractice claims involving birth injury cases (for children less than a month old) is almost $1 million. View more birth injury legal statistics to learn about the possible benefits.

Birth Injury Organizations & Resources

There are several organizations the parents of children born with birth injuries can turn to. The following is a quick look at just a few.

  • Cerebral Palsy Foundation: The CPF works to increase awareness of CP, and also provides resources to those affected by the condition.
  • March of Dimes: The March of Dimes has been a leading supporter of education and research programs regarding birth defects and birth injuries for more than 80 years.
  • United Cerebral Palsy: UCP has a network of affiliates across the country who provide services to people affected by CP and other disabilities.

Further, over 100 cerebral palsy organizations across dozens of countries come together during World Cerebral Palsy day to spread awareness about the condition. World Cerebral Palsy Day is celebrated on October 6 each year.

Benefits of Birth Injury Statistics

Knowing birth injury statistics will help you understand that you are not alone. Millions of people across the nation are going through the same thing. You may be able to obtain full and fair compensation for your child’s injury by seeking legal help.

If you would like to learn more or schedule a free case review, call us at (855) 939-1882.

Birth Injury Support Team

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.

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