Birth injuries occur more often than you’d expect. It has been estimated that as many as 8 out of every 1,000 babies in the United States are born with some form of birth injury. They can take many different forms; cerebral palsy, facial paralysis, and bone fractures are just a few of the most common. As common as they might be, not every baby’s risk of sustaining a birth injury is equal. Here are some risk factors you should be aware of.
‘Macrosomia’ is the technical term for a baby that is unusually large. Generally speaking, a baby born weighing more than 4,000 grams (8 pounds and 13 ounces) qualifies as having macrosomia. This applies to roughly 9% of babies born every year.
Unusually large babies are at greater risk for birth injuries because it is more difficult for them to fit through the birth canal.
Breech deliveries—when the baby is born with their feet first—also put the baby at greater risk of birth injury. This results both from correlation and causation. Babies with heads larger than the mother’s pelvis are more likely to emerge in this position in the first place. Breech birth is also more likely to result in asphyxiation, which can injure the brain.
When a baby is born prior to 37 weeks of gestation, their birth qualifies as ‘premature.’ According to the CDC, approximately 10% of babies born annually in the United States are premature. These babies are at higher risk of sustaining a birth injury because their lungs, liver, and brain are still developing. Additionally, their bodies are more fragile and susceptible to injury.
It should go without saying that the health of the mother contributes significantly to that of the baby. But you might be surprised to learn that a wide variety of maternal infections can put the baby at an increased risk of birth injury. These include:
- Hepatitis B
Medical professionals are responsible for monitoring the health of the mother for any factors that may injure the baby, and taking measures to mitigate these risks.
This leads us to our next point. Perhaps the biggest risk factor for birth injuries is the negligence of medical professionals. In the world of law, we refer to this as medical malpractice. Your doctor has a responsibility to carefully monitor your pregnancy for risk factors of birth injuries. They can take steps to reduce these risks, such as performing cesarean sections. Additionally, they should use appropriate caution during tool-assisted deliveries not to inadvertently injure the baby.
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