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The alarming link between birth injury and developmental delays

While exciting and joyous, childbirth can also be a dangerous time, both for mother and baby. Unfortunately for concerned parents, there are any number of things that can go wrong, leading to complications and health problems immediately or even months or years down the road.

Perhaps the worst, though, is when these injuries to tiny, fragile newborns are preventable through proper care and medical precautions, but occur anyway due to mistakes or negligence on the part of careless medical professionals. Injuries at birth can result in developmental delays that affect the child's growth and brain development. How do these tragic injuries occur, and is there anything you can do?

Osteopathic birth trauma

The design of your newborn's skull allows it to temporarily compress during contractions in the labor process, then expand and return to normal shape following delivery. The bony skull protects the brain, similar to how the sacrum – the large bone that forms the back of the pelvis – protects the lower end of the central nervous system, with the vertebral column absorbing the force of compression during contractions to protect the spinal cord during birth.

However, problems during labor and delivery sometimes compromise these physical structures. This, in turn, disturbs the nervous system and interferes with physiological development. Complications may arise due to a variety of issues, including but not limited to:

  • The cord around the baby's neck
  • A significant slowing of the baby's heart rate
  • Difficult or prolonged labor lasting longer than 18 hours
  • The baby presenting in any position other than face down
  • The use of medication to induce or accelerate labor
  • The use of forceps or vacuum extraction
  • C-section

Some of these issues are unavoidable or naturally occurring, but unfortunately, a number of others – such as unskilled or clumsy use of forceps to extract the baby or the incorrect administration of Pitocin, for example – may be due to doctor error or negligence.

Developmental delays

Experts estimate that at least 80 percent of children with developmental delays – including autism and Attention Deficit Disorder – experienced a traumatic birth injury that ultimately resulted in various manifestations of cerebral dysfunction. Simply put, this means that the child's brain is not functioning properly or as efficiently as it should. While it could take years for all of the symptoms to become evident, sometimes the issues are apparent soon after birth. Signs of a compromised nervous system in your newborn may include:

  • Asymmetrical motion of arms or legs
  • Arched back
  • Throwing head back when held on shoulder or side
  • Spells of inconsolable crying
  • Vomiting after feeding
  • Delay in sucking of more than 48 hours

As your baby grows, another sign could be a lack of sequence in motor development or missing or delayed milestones. While every child develops differently, a pediatrician may be able to offer insight if you suspect that your child may be developmentally delayed.


Occasionally, experts can help treat structural dysfunction caused by birth trauma so that neurological development can begin to progress correctly. This, in turn, may help avert or address other behavioral and developmental problems. Unfortunately, sometimes birth injuries due to physician error are too severe to correct fully. In these cases, or even in instances where you are uncertain what may have led to your child's birth injury, you may wish to consider the counsel of an attorney in the Chicago area who has experience in medical malpractice claims.

No amount of money can make up for your baby's injury and suffering. However, in cases where doctor error or negligence resulted in your child's condition, an attorney may be able to offer advice and representation in the fight for justice for you and your baby. An Illinois lawyer can help you hold the accountable parties responsible and pursue compensation, which you can then put toward the medical expenses to get your child the treatment and help he or she needs and deserves.

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