Birth-related injuries can have a devastating impact on families but, thankfully, the vast majority of pregnancies and births happen without any problems at all.

When something does go wrong, however, it can be very serious. Occasionally, baby birth injuries or birth injuries to the mother occur as a result of birth injury malpractice and those whose care has fallen below the acceptable standard may be able to make a claim for compensation.

A woman kisses her newborn baby

 

Clinical negligence during pregnancy, labour or after birth

Clinical negligence is, thankfully, a rare occurrence. However, if your midwife or doctor fails to treat you correctly during your pregnancy, during labour or after birth, or fails to diagnose a condition they should have, you may be able to make a compensation claim.

Neonatal birth injuries as a result of birth injury malpractice could cover injuries from caesarean section errors, injuries to the birth canal forceps birth injuries, nerve damage and brachial plexus injury at birth, stillbirths, misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis and more.  

Below you will find a list of the most common types of birth injuries we deal with, together with information about how to begin a compensation claim.

 

Maternal diabetes or gestational diabetes

If you develop maternal diabetes (often known as gestational diabetes) and your healthcare professional fails to spot the signs of the condition developing, or fails to carry out a screening test if you have a family history of gestational diabetes, it can lead to miscarriage or birth defects to the developing baby, including brain defects or heart defects.

It can also cause the baby to grow to a large size, which can lead to difficulties with the birth and result in injuries to the birth canal.


Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is caused by a defect with the placenta, which carries all of the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby. It can only be cured by delivering the baby, but can sometimes be managed if the baby has not developed sufficiently to be delivered safely.

It is diagnosed by having regular blood pressure checks and urine samples taken and therefore it is important your midwife sees you for regular antenatal checks.

Pre-eclampsia is a very serious condition and can lead to death of both mother and baby if not recognised.


Uterine rupture and placental abruption

The cause of placental abruption is not known, but the symptoms are obvious. You may suffer from a heavy vaginal bleed or severe pains in your back or abdomen. Uterine rupture can be caused by some labours, especially if labour has been artificially induced and not properly monitored.

The blood loss is caused due to the placenta separating from the wall of the uterus which can starve the baby of oxygen (sometimes resulting in brain damage or death) and uterine rupture can put the mother at risk of blood loss and damage to her organs, as well as leading to emergency hysterectomy.

If these emergencies are not treated correctly on time by your healthcare professional, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.


Wrongful birth cases

Wrongful birth means that had the mother known about the birth defect she would have terminated the pregnancy rather than giving birth to a child with a physical or mental disability.

There are many different birth defects a baby can have, such as spina bifida, club feet, holes in the heart and Down's syndrome. With the use of scans or blood tests, some of these defects are much easier to diagnose than others.

If your healthcare professional fails to diagnose a birth defect which should have been easy to diagnose (perhaps due to a faulty scanning machine or lack of staff training), then you may be able to make a wrongful birth claim for compensation. Birth injury compensation in situations like this often provide for the costs associated with the welfare and healthcare of the disabled child.


Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a brain injury that can arise before, during or after birth. It is a complex condition and it is sometimes not possible to identify the cause. Recognised causes include a lack of oxygen to the brain, infection, prematurity, a bleed in the brain, a difficult birth, a multiple birth, abnormal brain development and genes.

You should seek expert legal advice if your baby has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.


Episiotomy and second or third degree tears

An episiotomy is a surgical incision made to make the delivery of your baby easier.

It is normally only made if the baby is in distress or if it is thought that the mother's skin would tear without it.

If your healthcare provider performs the episiotomy incorrectly or does not perform it at all when it is obvious that it is required, it could lead to second degree or third degree tearing of the skin, or other complications such as incontinence.

 

Brachial plexus or Erb's palsy injuries

Brachial plexus injury at birth occurs when the nerves of the brachial plexus, found between the neck and shoulders, are damaged during birth. Erb’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus injury.

The size of your unborn baby should be monitored throughout your pregnancy to ensure that the healthcare professionals can make adequate plans for the birth. If the baby is much larger than normal and they suspect it will cause problems during a normal vaginal delivery, they should prepare to carry out an episiotomy or a caesarean section.

In cases where no action is taken and the baby is large, his or her shoulders can become stuck which is very dangerous and can lead to death.

Even if the baby's shoulders are eventually freed and he or she is delivered vaginally, a brachial plexus injury at birth could result in paralysis to the arm or hand.


Forceps delivery or ventouse delivery

If the baby becomes distressed during birth, assistance is sometimes needed to pull the baby out and a choice needs to be made between a forceps delivery and a ventouse delivery. Each method should only be used in specific circumstances and a trained medical professional should know when to use each tool, otherwise your baby could suffer a forceps birth injury.

Unfortunately, if the wrong choice is made, scarring can occur to the baby's face or head and sometimes nerves can be damaged causing the face to droop at one side.


Congenital hip dysplasia

Congenital hip dysplasia is a condition of the hip joint and is thought to be a genetic condition. All newborn babies are supposed to be screened for congenital hip dysplasia, and checks should also be made at six months and when other development checks are carried out. Providing the condition is found early, the prognosis is good.

If the condition is missed by your healthcare professionals and it is not diagnosed before your baby starts to walk, more complicated surgery may be required and there are risks of later complications in early adolescence and later middle age.

 

How to start a birth injury compensation claim

If you or anyone you know has suffered from any form of birth injury or clinical negligence, you can contact our expert medical negligence team on 0800 0 224 224.

Thompsons Solicitors are experts in all matters relating to clinical negligence and will be able to advise you as to whether or not you have a valid claim for compensation. Our specialist clinical negligence lawyers will be happy to talk you through the process of making a claim in plain English and will be happy to answer any questions or queries you may have.

Start a claim

 

Useful contacts

Sands - Still birth and neonatal death charity: 020 7436 5881
Scope: 0808 800 3333
NICE - National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
Care Quality Commission: 03000 616161
SIA - Spinal Injuries Association: 0800 980 0501
Headway: 0808 800 2244
AvMA - Action against Medical Accidents: 0845 123 23 52
CAS - Independent Complaints Advocacy Service