U.S. Agency on Healthcare Research Report Highlights “Devastating Consequences” of Birth Injury

Every parent expecting to welcome a new child into the world is hopeful that the labor and delivery will be uneventful and that the baby will be born healthy and happy but, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The U.S. Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a government agency aimed at improving the quality of health care, recently released a report highlighting interesting information on birth injuries.

Reasons Birth Injuries Occur

Inadequate training on recognizing when the fetus is in distress, failure to order a c-section on time, improper use of medicines to induce labor, improper technique using forceps or a vacuum and failure to respond to a delivery in a timely manner AHRQ says are reasons birth injuries occur.

AHRQ also cites additional causes of birth injuries such as: breakdown in communication among medical staff and doctors treating the mother and baby, failure to seek a second opinion when treating OBs, and treating physicians’ disagreements on how the labor and delivery are progressing.

Consequences of Birth Injuries

AHRQ reports that birth injuries happen in less than one in 10 deliveries, but when they do occur, the consequences and burdens to the child and his or her family can be immense. Children who are injured during birth may face numerous barriers in life: physical challenges such as those caused by cerebral palsy, mental or developmental delays caused by brain trauma or oxygen deprivation during delivery to name a few.

The AHRQ report highlights that birth injuries can cost families and caregivers, as well as society, billions of dollars in treatment costs. The report even theorizes that some obstetricians have stopped delivering babies because of rising litigation costs. Others have changed delivery methods including scheduling elective cesarean sections to avoid the risk of birth injuries to the child. But C-sections tend to be more risky for the mother.

Innovation Team Shows that Birth Injuries Can Be Prevented

As the AHRQ report notes, birth injuries can be prevented. A task force made up of an interdisciplinary team of physicians, medical staff, hospital administrators and risk assessors at a Texas hospital formed to develop effective protocols to reduce and prevent birth trauma.

First on the list were standardized protocols on almost every aspect of labor and delivery where a birth injury could arise: use of drugs, assistive devices, and scheduling elective procedures such as C-sections, among others. The team has also developed checklist and fill-in forms to facilitate compliance with protocols, data collection on births, on-going monitoring for compliance with the protocols and live training during births.

The results of the team’s work can and should be shared with OB/GYNs, hospitals and obstetric medical staff around the nation. In the mean time, families who have lost a child during birth or whose child has suffered a birth injury should talk to an experienced birth injury lawyer to discuss legal options.

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