From the infamous skyline of Chicago to the waterfalls in Starved Rock State Park, Illinois is a state rich in culture, history and beauty, so it’s no wonder so many people choose to call it home. Residents of Illinois are also fortunate to have many hospitals known for their high-quality labor and delivery services, including Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, and Northwestern Medical Center in Chicago, to name a few.
But alongside the many successful births that happen every day in these hospitals, the risk of birth injuries is a reality that persists in Illinois, just as in any other state. While everyone hopes for a healthy baby, unfortunately, some babies experience trauma during labor, delivery or immediately after birth that results in injuries and even death.
As parents do their best to come to terms with this new reality and figure out how to get their child the care they need, they’re often left wondering if their child’s injuries were caused by a medical mistake.
At Brown Trial Firm, we understand how overwhelming this process can be for families, but we want you to know that you don’t have to go through it alone. Illinois birth injury attorney Laura Brown can help your family understand your rights and seek the justice and compensation your child deserves to live their best life.
Our consultations are free.
However, not every case is the right fit.
When we do decide to accept your case, rest assured you won’t have to deal with out-of-pocket costs.
We only get paid if we win the case for you.
Illinois birth rate and infant mortality statistics
In Illinois in 2020, there were more than 133,000 live births—a fertility rate of about 54 per 1,000 women ages 15-44. Out of all the live births in Illinois in 2020, 53.7% were white, 21.3% were Hispanic, 17.2% were Black, 6.7% were Asian or Pacific Islander, and 0.1% were American Indian or Alaskan Native.
Sadly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 733 infant deaths in Illinois that same year. This number equates to 5.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. These deaths are caused by a variety of factors, including birth defects, health issues that result from preterm birth or low birth weight, maternal health problems, and birth injuries.
Could your baby’s developmental health delay be the result of one of these common birth injuries?
A birth injury is defined as any harm or injury sustained by a baby during the process of labor and delivery. Some of the most common types include the following:
- Cerebral palsy. This is a neurological disorder, often resulting from a lack of oxygen during delivery, that can affect muscle coordination, balance, speech, hearing, vision, bladder and bowel control, and more.
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). This is a form of brain damage resulting from insufficient oxygen and blood flow during pregnancy, labor or delivery. This condition has numerous causes, including umbilical cord problems, placental issues, maternal health conditions, fetal intolerance to labor, cesarean section (C-section) delays, and excessive use of force during delivery with forceps or a vacuum extractor.
- Brain bleeds. Bleeding into the skull, also called intracranial hemorrhage, is usually due to a traumatic birth or prolonged labor. Severe brain bleeds can lead to developmental delays and disabilities.
- Spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries can happen if there’s excessive pulling or twisting of the baby’s trunk during delivery, particularly in breech deliveries or cases of shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder gets lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bone. Such actions can put excessive strain on the baby’s neck and spine, potentially leading to spinal cord damage.
- Brachial plexus injuries (Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy). These injuries affect the nerves that control the muscles of the shoulder, arm, and hand. They often result when a doctor pulls or twists the baby if they become stuck during delivery.
- Broken bones. Fractures usually occur due to physical pressure or trauma during the delivery process, particularly in difficult or prolonged labors, or when birth-assisting tools like forceps or vacuum extractors are used. The clavicle, or collarbone, is the most common bone to be fractured, often when there’s difficulty delivering the baby’s shoulder.
- Caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma. These conditions are characterized by swelling or bleeding underneath the baby’s scalp, often from the baby getting stuck in the birth canal during a prolonged labor or from vacuum extraction. In most cases, they heal on their own and don’t have any long-lasting health consequences for the child.
- Facial paralysis. This can occur if the facial nerve is damaged because of pressure on the baby’s face during difficult or prolonged deliveries or when forceps are improperly used.
Remember that while these birth injuries are common, many can be avoided with proper medical care and attention during pregnancy and delivery.
If you recognize any of these injuries in your child and suspect they’re the result of medical negligence during labor and delivery, it’s time to take action.
What are the most common causes of birth injuries?
There are many different reasons why a baby might sustain a birth injury. However, in most cases, it stems from medical negligence on the part of a doctor or other medical professional during pregnancy, labor, delivery or shortly after the child’s birth.
The following are among the most common causes of birth injuries:
- Infections. If the mother has certain infections, like chorioamnionitis, the baby can be exposed during a vaginal delivery. Chorioamnionitis can result in breathing difficulties, seizures and sepsis (a life-threatening infection) in newborns. Often, this occurs when a doctor fails to properly screen the mother and treat the infection to prevent it from transferring to her baby.
- Asphyxia. This problem occurs when the baby is deprived of oxygen at any stage. It can lead to brain damage and problems such as cerebral palsy.
- Trauma. Pressure on the baby’s head or body can lead to birth trauma. Often, this happens when the doctor uses assistive means like forceps or vacuum extraction. Babies are at a greater risk of trauma if they’re large for gestational age or if they’re in an awkward position (like breech).
- Failing to treat maternal medical conditions. If the mother isn’t evaluated and treated for certain medical conditions, it can negatively impact her baby. This includes conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, bleeding and severe nausea, to name a few.
- Medical errors. Medical errors like failure to perform a cesarean section (C-section), failure to monitor the baby for signs of intolerance to labor, medication errors, and improper use of forceps or a vacuum extractor can also lead to birth injuries.
- Inadequate prenatal care. When doctors provide inadequate prenatal care, it can lead to undiagnosed or unmanaged maternal health conditions, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or infections, which can negatively impact the baby’s development and increase their risk of complications during birth. Additionally, inadequate monitoring of the baby’s growth and development, or failure to detect and address potential issues like abnormal positioning, could result in difficult deliveries or the need for emergency procedures, increasing the risk of birth injuries.
What causes infant brain damage during delivery?
One of the most serious forms of birth injury is brain damage. Certain factors can cause an infant to develop brain damage during delivery. The most common include the following:
- Asphyxia. Babies who don’t get sufficient oxygen during birth are more likely to develop brain damage. This can happen even if the infant is deprived of oxygen for a very short time. Asphyxia can occur for a number of reasons, including umbilical cord problems, placenta problems, prolonged labor, infections and maternal blood pressure issues.
- Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, characterized by high blood pressure in pregnant women, can lead to reduced blood flow to the placenta, causing insufficient oxygen to the baby’s brain, potentially resulting in brain damage. If preeclampsia escalates to eclampsia, the resultant seizures in the mother can further disrupt the oxygen supply to the baby, increasing the risk of brain injury. Moreover, preeclampsia can lead to premature birth, which carries its own risks due to the baby’s underdeveloped organs, including the brain.
- Infections. Maternal infections passed on to the baby can lead to brain damage. The mother must be properly screened and treated to prevent transmission. In some cases, a C-section may be necessary to prevent infecting the baby during delivery.
- Jaundice. Newborn jaundice occurs due to high levels of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced when red blood cells are broken down. When bilirubin levels become excessively high, a condition known as kernicterus can develop, where bilirubin spreads into the brain tissues, causing potential brain damage. This damage can lead to serious complications like cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities if left untreated.
- Physical trauma. A baby can also suffer brain damage from physical trauma during delivery. This can happen because of excess pressure on the baby’s head during a vaginal birth or from the use of forceps or vacuum extraction.
How can I tell if my baby has a birth injury?
Detecting a birth injury in a baby requires careful observation and monitoring of their physical and behavioral signs. Here are some indicators that may suggest a birth injury:
- Physical symptoms. This includes bruises, swelling, a misshapen head or broken bones. There may also be limited movement in certain limbs, or the baby may favor one side of their body over the other.
- Difficulty with feeding. This may include trouble latching onto the breast or bottle, excessive fussiness during feeding, or difficulty swallowing.
- Abnormal breathing or heart rate. This includes irregularities in the baby’s breathing pattern or heart rate, such as rapid breathing, gasping or irregular heartbeats.
- Delayed developmental milestones. These can include any failure to meet expected milestones such as lifting their head, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking or talking.
- Unusual crying or irritability. This can include non-stop crying and other signs of discomfort that are not attributed to common causes like hunger, wet diapers or sleepiness.
- Seizures. Seizures can be a sign of a birth injury. Look for sudden and uncontrolled movements, abnormal eye movements, or a blank stare.
If you have concerns about your baby’s health or suspect a birth injury, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough evaluation, perform necessary tests, and provide appropriate guidance and treatment based on the baby’s specific needs.
If a doctor confirms that your baby does, in fact, have an injury that could be related to birth, you should contact a birth injury attorney to explore your options for obtaining compensation to help with medical expenses and treatment.
Attorney Laura Brown, with her dedicated focus on birth injury cases and a record of securing lifetime care for injured children, is the attorney you need for a successful outcome.
What are the most common medical errors during delivery that lead to birth injuries?
Birth injuries are often due to medical errors by a doctor or a member of the medical team during delivery. The most common of those errors include the following.
- Undetected fetal distress. When a doctor or other medical professional fails to detect fetal distress, it can have devastating consequences. The baby may lack sufficient oxygen, which can lead to a birth injury.
- Delayed delivery. If a baby is not delivered in the appropriate amount of time, it can cause serious harm. The effects can be permanent.
- Improper use of forceps. If assistive delivery devices like forceps are used, they must be used properly. Improper use can put too much pressure on the baby’s head and cause birth injuries that include bleeding, bruising or brain damage.
- Excess force. Excessive force during delivery can harm an infant and lead to a birth injury like Erb’s palsy or damage to the head, arm or shoulder.
- Untreated maternal conditions. When a doctor fails to diagnose and treat conditions in the mother, it can cause serious problems in the baby.
- Delated C-sections. Depending on the situation, a baby may need to be born via a C-section instead of vaginally. This should be done in emergency situations, such as preeclampsia or umbilical cord problems. If a doctor fails to perform this procedure, it can cause birth injuries.
Please note that a baby can suffer trauma that leads to birth injuries from medical errors during any stage of pregnancy, labor or delivery.
What is a doctor’s role in preventing birth injuries?
Every doctor has a professional obligation, known as a “duty of care,” to their patients. This duty involves providing a standard level of care, making sound clinical decisions, and taking the necessary steps to prevent harm.
In the context of childbirth, this duty extends to both the mother and the child, and a doctor’s role in preventing birth injuries is critical to fulfilling this duty. As such, they are responsible for all of the following:
- Providing comprehensive prenatal care. Doctors must manage any existing maternal health conditions, monitor fetal development, identify risk factors for potential complications, and educate parents about maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
- Developing a safe birth plan. It’s the doctor’s responsibility to devise a birth plan that prioritizes the safety of both the mother and child, while also taking into account the mother’s preferences and the potential risks.
- Monitoring during labor. Continual monitoring of the mother’s and baby’s vital signs during labor is essential. Any significant changes could indicate distress or complications that need immediate medical intervention.
- Executing skillful delivery. Doctors must be proficient in managing birth complications and utilizing various delivery techniques. If birth-assisting tools are needed, they must be used correctly and carefully to avoid injury.
- Managing emergencies. The doctor should be ready to handle emergencies, such as complications related to the umbilical cord, breech presentation, or prolonged labor, which may necessitate a C-section.
- Offering thorough postnatal care. After birth, doctors should closely monitor the newborn for any signs of birth injuries or complications to ensure swift diagnosis and treatment.
The doctor’s duty of care represents a commitment to safeguard the health and well-being of both the mother and baby throughout the childbirth process. Any lapse in fulfilling this duty can potentially lead to birth injuries.
Who may be liable in a birth injury lawsuit?
Various parties, in addition to the OB-GYN and delivery physician, can be liable in a birth injury lawsuit. A birth injury attorney can help you determine who the responsible party is or whether there are multiple liable parties. Lab technicians, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and even hospitals and medical facilities may be liable if a baby suffers birth injuries.
Illinois birth injury statute of limitations
8 years from the date of the injury
Not valid after 22nd birthday.
Contact an Illinois birth injury attorney
If your child is suffering from a birth injury and you suspect medical negligence may be involved, don’t hesitate to learn more about their rights. While filing a lawsuit can feel intimidating, it’s the first crucial step in ensuring your child has the financial support they need to thrive.
As an experienced Illinois birth injury attorney, Laura Brown can guide you through your legal rights, help you understand the process, and fight for the justice and compensation your child deserves.
Contact Brown Trial Firm today for a free consultation.
Compensation for the lifelong medical expenses of a child who suffered severe injuries from suffocation on his mother’s umbilical cord, leading to brain damage and cerebral palsy.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Stats of the states – infant mortality. Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/infant_mortality_rates/infant_mortality.htm
Fertility rate: Illinois, 2010-2020. (n.d.). March of Dimes | PeriStats. Retrieved August 1, 2023, from https://www.marchofdimes.org/peristats/data?reg=99&top=2&stop=1&slev=4&obj=1&sreg=17