Birth Injury Resources for Veterans and Their Families

Quick Answer

More than 2 million United States veterans are women. These service members put their lives on the line to protect our country. Sadly, that risk doesn’t necessarily end when they leave the military. Many veteran families have been devastated by maternal or fetal injuries caused by a health care provider’s negligence. Learn more about birth injuries and available resources to help veterans cope financially and emotionally.

What Are Birth Injuries?

Birth injuries occur when a baby is physically harmed before, during, or shortly after delivery. Most birth injuries happen as the baby passes through the birth canal.

There are various types of birth injuries, ranging from minor bruising to skull fractures and major brain damage. A birth injury may also be referred to as neonatal birth trauma.

If the injury is minor, most babies will recover in a few days or weeks without long-term effects. Unfortunately, severe physical injuries can leave a child with permanent disabilities. Some birth injuries can even be fatal.

Around 28,000 birth injuries happen every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The majority of birth injuries involve a baby’s head, neck, or shoulders, but in certain cases they can affect the face, abdomen, or lower limbs.

Birth Injury Causes

Various circumstances can cause a newborn to suffer an injury at or near birth. In general, though, birth injury causes can be narrowed down into maternal, fetal, or external factors.

Some of these factors are uncontrollable, such as when a baby is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis. But other factors that are either ignored or improperly managed can lead to long-term complications and may be considered medical negligence.

Maternal Risk Factors

Specific factors related to the mother can increase the potential for birth injury without careful monitoring and prenatal care.

Birth injuries are more likely to occur when the expectant mother:

  • Develops an infection that is left untreated
  • Has a small or abnormally shaped pelvis
  • Has pregnancy-related high blood pressure (preeclampsia)
  • Is clinically obese
  • Is diabetic

Female Veterans and Pregnancy Complications

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), military deployment can increase the risk of premature birth. A possible reason for this is the link between deployment and the development of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD can increase the chance of spontaneous premature birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. All three are risk factors for birth injuries.

Fetal Risk Factors

Babies are at higher risk for birth injuries if they:

  • Are born prematurely (before 37 weeks)
  • Are not positioned head-first in the birth canal
  • Have too large of a head to pass through the mother’s pelvic opening
  • Weigh more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces at birth

External Risk Factors

External physical harm or medical errors made during or after delivery can also cause birth injuries in newborns.

For example, a baby can sustain a brain injury if the obstetrician uses too much suction on the baby’s head in a vacuum-assisted delivery.

Data shows that when doctors use instruments like forceps to assist a delivery, mothers in military hospitals are about 15% more likely to be injured.

Additionally, a doctor or nurse can injure a baby’s neck, arm, or shoulder — or the mother herself — if they pull too hard during a forceps-assisted delivery. Both events may be considered malpractice if it can be proven that the doctor, nurse, or hospital acted negligently.

We can help you determine if you have a medical malpractice case — chat with one of our registered nurses today to learn more.

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Common Types of Birth Injuries

There are a variety of birth injuries with a wide range of causes, severity, and symptoms.

Severe birth injuries can result in serious complications that need lifelong treatment and — in extreme cases — may even be fatal.

Some common types of birth injuries include:

These are just a few examples — many more types of birth injuries exist. Birth injuries are normally grouped into one of three categories: brain damage, nerve injury, or orthopedic injury (related to the bones, joints, and muscles).

Signs and Symptoms of Birth Injuries

When children suffer birth injuries, parents may notice them right away. Other times, a parent may not know anything is wrong until the child is a few years old.

Specific birth injury signs depend on the type of injury, the organs or parts of the body affected, and the complications caused by the damage.

Even though every case is unique, there are some prominent symptoms that can indicate a birth injury.

Signs that your child may have suffered a birth injury include:

  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Arched back while crying
  • Bruising or bulges on the head
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Excessive drooling
  • Fingers bent into a claw shape
  • High-pitched crying
  • Low heart rate
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Muscle stiffness or floppiness
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Rapid or slow breathing
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Vomiting
  • Weak or absent reflexes

It’s helpful to know what symptoms to look for, but your doctor is ultimately responsible for recognizing potential signs of a birth injury.

If an accident or other event occurred during labor or delivery that may have harmed your baby, your medical team should also run tests to determine the extent of any damage.

Birth Injuries and Medical Negligence

When a birth injury is linked to the error or inaction of a medical provider or facility, it can be considered negligence or medical malpractice. Health care professionals are expected to follow accepted standards of care. When they don’t, the results can be devastating.

Examples of medical negligence that can lead to birth injuries include:

  • Failing to monitor the infant for signs of fetal distress
  • Inability to control blood loss
  • Misinterpreting ultrasound results
  • Neglecting to check whether the mother and baby’s blood types are compatible
  • Not recognizing or treating newborn jaundice
  • Taking too long to decide that the baby should be delivered via cesarean section (C-section)

Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who ignore obvious signs of maternal or newborn infection can also put newborns at risk of harm or injury.

Suspect your child’s birth injury was the result of medical error? Get a free case review now to see if you qualify for financial compensation that can help offset the cost of treatment.

Birth Injury Dangers at Military Hospitals

Sadly, infants who are born at military hospitals are more likely to be injured than infants born in civilian hospitals in the U.S.

A New York Times investigation that looked at internal military hospital documents found that intervention during the birthing process is not always thorough. This can lead to recurring preventable errors.

“More than 50,000 babies are born at military hospitals each year, and they are twice as likely to be injured during delivery as newborns nationwide.”

The New York Times

Birth injuries can happen at any hospital, but the New York Times report discovered that many military facilities lag behind civilian hospitals when it comes to keeping patients safe.

Even with safety programs in place, there have been repeated instances of military doctors and nurses failing to read patient files, ignoring distress calls, or making critical communication errors. These mistakes can be especially dangerous during childbirth since it is so complex.

How to Seek Compensation for Medical Negligence

While nothing can erase a family’s pain and suffering, a birth injury lawsuit can help victims and their loved ones seek accountability and compensation for the damage caused.

In January 2020, a Tennessee teen was awarded $15.1 million for a severe birth-related brain injury he suffered in the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell.

A federal judge ruled that the hospital committed medical malpractice when it didn’t fully inform the boy’s mother — a 3-year U.S. Army veteran — of the dangers of a vaginal delivery. Because of her small stature and the short window of time between pregnancies, she had a higher risk of complications.

Toward the end of the mother’s labor, an emergency C-section had to be performed. In the process, her son suffered hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which led to him developing cerebral palsy and lifelong neurological issues.

In her ruling, the judge noted that the boy’s birth injury might have been avoided if the hospital delivered him by C-section earlier during labor.

Medical and Financial Support for Military Families

There are specific resources available to veterans and their families that can help them access much-needed emotional, medical, and financial support.

Keep reading to learn more about your options.

VA Maternity Care Services

The VA includes pregnancy-related care in its medical benefits package. About 4,000 women take advantage of these benefits each year.

Some of these VA maternity care services include:

  • Access to LGBTQ+ veteran care coordinators
  • Genetic testing
  • Newborn care on the date of birth plus 7 days immediately after birth
  • Physical exams and lab tests
  • Social work and mental health services
  • Support and services in case of miscarriage or stillbirth

VA Medical Malpractice Claims

When a veteran or their loved one receives substandard care at a military hospital or facility, they may not be aware that it’s possible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the federal government.

If you or your child was injured during the birthing process, you can seek compensation for pain and suffering and financial loss under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). An experienced birth injury lawyer can help you file an FTCA claim.

Some successful medical malpractice claims filed against the U.S. government end in structured settlements. With a structured settlement, the birth injury victim or their family receives a series of payments over several years to help pay for medical care and treatment throughout the child’s lifetime.

It’s important to act quickly. The statute of limitations for filing a VA medical malpractice claim is 2 years from the date of the malpractice. A completed Standard Form 95 Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death must also be sent to the appropriate government office within this time frame.

A qualified birth injury attorney can help you complete this form and ensure your claim is filed by the federal deadline so you don’t miss your chance to pursue compensation.

Request a free case review today to get started.

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Do you suspect your child’s birth injury was caused by medical malpractice?

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Additional Birth Injury Support Resources

If your child or loved one was injured at or near birth, we can connect you with additional resources that can potentially improve their quality of life and help bring you some comfort.

Veterans and their families can rely on the Birth Injury Justice Center for help finding:

You can also reach our team at (800) 914-1562 for additional support 24/7 — we appreciate your service and are honored to assist you.

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.

View 13 Sources
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  5. Nillni YI, Shayani DR, Finley E, Copeland LA, Perkins DF, Vogt DS. The Impact of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Moral Injury on Women Veterans' Perinatal Outcomes Following Separation From Military Service. J Trauma Stress. 2020 Jun;33(3):248-256. doi: 10.1002/jts.22509. Epub 2020 Apr 15. PMID: 32291816; PMCID: PMC7864116.
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