In this video, John McCarthy answers the frequently asked question, “What are the most common types of birth injuries?”
A good first question and before I start, I should emphasise that I have three young children myself and I can remember vividly the delivery of each of them. I especially remember that feeling of dread and panic in that short window when you just don’t know if everything is going according to plan. Thankfully, they’re all healthy and that’s the case with the vast majority of children. It’s undoubtedly a very worrying time, but in the majority of cases, even when there is an injury, the injury can be quite modest and there can be a full recovery.
Unfortunately today, because of the nature of the topic we’re dealing with, we will be discussing issues where there is a lifelong change as a result of some complication in labour and delivery. That’s when you have cases that have been brought against hospitals, obstetricians and other medical professionals.
As I say, the vast majority of deliveries are without incident but you do have injuries. Thankfully though, the more common the injury, the least problematic they are. For instance, you might have an injury where your baby might have their clavicle – or their collarbone – fractured during delivery, but in the vast majority of these cases, there’s nothing that needs to be done except to give a little bit of TLC and make sure that their pain during the healing process is managed. You might also have marks or bruising left by forceps or by vacuums and in the majority of these cases, it’s very distressing at the time, but it soon gets forgotten about in the whirlwind that follows.
The ones that hit the newspapers are cases where babies have life-altering injuries such as cerebral palsy where, unfortunately, they will never lead a full life because of their injury. The extent of their injuries is dependent on the individual case, as there’s a spectrum; some have mild symptoms while others can have profound symptoms. You’d be forgiven for thinking that these happen on a daily basis because they’re in the newspapers, but the reason they’re in the newspapers is because infant cases have to be ruled before a judge and the media take an interest in them because of the amount of money involved and also because of the human interest angle, where you have a baby who’s injured in childbirth and that is inherently tragic. So, even though they’re in the news a lot, they’re quite infrequent. We don’t really know how many per annum go through the courts as there’s no register, but we suspect it’s probably in the tens rather than the hundreds. So as I say, thankfully, this is a relatively rare occurrence, but of course, when it happens to the people concerned, it doesn’t matter how often it happens – what matters is that it has happened.
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