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Rate of Birth Trauma Declines But Risks Persist

Birth trauma occurs when an infant is injured during the birth process usually due to mechanical forces. Although birth trauma only accounts for less than two percent of neonatal or stillbirth deaths in the United States, it tends to occur at an average of 6-8 injuries for every 1,000 live births.

Between 1970 and 1985 the number of birth injuries from trauma fell by 88 percent. These significant decreases were due to advances in technology that allowed obstetricians to recognized birth trauma risk factors sooner.

The use of instruments and methods that could potentially cause injury - such as mid-forceps rotation and vacuum delivery - also decreased. If risk factors for birth trauma are present, the alternative is a cesarean delivery. However, this process also does not guarantee an injury-free birth.

Risk Factors Contributing to Birth Injuries During Delivery

Birth trauma risk factors include:

  • Infants weighing more than 9 pounds, 15 ounces
  • Instrumental delivery
  • Vaginal breech delivery
  • Abnormal or excessive traction during delivery

In addition, factors that can predispose an infant to injury from birth trauma during delivery include:

  • Prolonged or rapid labor
  • Small maternal structure
  • Breech
  • Use of mid-cavity forceps or vacuum extraction
  • Very low birth weight
  • Large fetal head
  • Fetal abnormalities

Because the birth process is complicated and involves items such as compressions, contractions, torques and tractions, the risk of injury is already present. If other factors such as fetal size, presentation or neurological immaturity are added, the risk of serious birth injury is higher. Certain obstetric instruments can also increase the risk of injury. Typical injuries include tissue damage, edema, hemorrhage and fractures.

Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer After Trauma

Medical professionals must be vigilant to prevent birth trauma despite the presence of risk factors. A doctor has the responsibility to act with care in even the most complicated delivery. Doctors must also warn a patient of the risks of certain procedures such as vacuum delivery and forceps. If your baby suffered birth trauma during delivery, speaking to a knowledgeable birth injury attorney will help answer all of your questions.


Located in Philadelphia, Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., home of MyPhillyLawyer, serves clients in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States.

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