Chicago Birth Injury Lawyer

Trusted Chicago Birth Injury Lawyers Fighting for Families Who are Victims of Medical Malpractice

In today’s world, the very idea of a birth injury is shocking.

With all of modern medicine’s advances in pregnancy care and childbirth, one might expect the rate of birth injury in Illinois to be next to nothing. Indeed, it should be. But it’s not.

In fact, birth injuries are surprisingly common all across the United States, including right here in Chicago. Many are very serious in nature and some even result in the heartbreaking loss of the mother or the child.

Gone are the days when childbirth was an inherently life-threatening process and every mother feared for her survival. Today’s advances in medical science have all but eliminated those threats. So why do birth injuries persist?

Sadly, most of today’s birth injuries are caused by medical malpractice. Doctors and nurses are crucial to society, but while most of them are very good people who try very hard to take great care of their patients, they do make mistakes.

Birth Injuries Defined

A birth injury refers to any kind of harm to your infant at any of the following stages:

  • During pregnancy
  • During labor
  • During delivery
  • After delivery

Some injuries are relatively minor, but others can lead to lifelong physical, cognitive, and emotional setbacks. And some birth injuries prove fatal. When such injuries are the result of medical professionals who fail to provide the standard of care required, they can be held legally responsible for the resulting losses.

The Statistics on Birth Injuries in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares important statistics from 2021 regarding births and birth accidents in this country, including:

  • The percentage of births with low birth weight was 8.52 percent.
  • The percentage of births that were preterm was 10.49 percent.
  • The number of infant deaths was 19,920, which is 543.6 deaths per 100,000 live births.

CDC statistics regarding birth injuries for the most recent data available include:

  • 6.1 percent of all infant fatalities were caused by unintentional injuries.
  • 6 percent of all infant fatalities were caused by maternal complications of pregnancy.
  • 3.5 percent of all infant fatalities were caused by newborn complications related to the placenta, cord, and membranes.
  • 2.9 percent of all infant fatalities were caused by bacterial sepsis in the newborn.
  • 2.0 percent of all infant fatalities were caused by respiratory distress of the newborn.

Birth injuries, in other words, are far too common.

Birth Injuries: Common Causes

Birth injuries are often based on medical providers who take action that they shouldn’t or who fail to take action when they should, and that lead to dangerous complications or birthing experiences that are unsafe. While every birth injury is unique to the circumstances involved, the causes tend to fall into several basic categories.

Birth Trauma

Birth trauma is often the result of medical professionals who apply too much pressure to the child’s head or body during the birth process. This over-application of pressure is often the result of one or more of the following:

  • Handling labor and delivery poorly overall
  • Over-prescribing delivery drugs
  • Using forceps or a vacuum inappropriately
  • Creating delivery complications that cause the delivery to drag on and become overly stressful

Birth Asphyxia

When a baby doesn’t get the oxygen they need, it’s called asphyxia, and this lack of oxygen and attendant deprivation of nutrients can affect the newborn’s brain and other vital organs before, during, and just after delivery. The effects of inadequate oxygen are compounding, and as acid builds up in the cells of the infant, they can experience permanent injuries like cerebral palsy (CP) and brain injuries.

Bacterial and Viral Infections

Babies who are delivered vaginally come into direct contact with any viruses and bacteria hosted in the mother’s birth canal during the labor and delivery process. While most of a mother’s bacterial and viral strains won’t harm her child, others can. Those that are especially dangerous can affect the newborn’s brain and surrounding membranes, spinal cord, and lungs.

Doctors who fail to screen for such infections as part of a mother’s routine prenatal care are often held responsible for the losses related to birth injuries caused by preventable infection transmission from mother to child.

Inadequate Prenatal Care

Medical professionals are responsible for providing pregnant women with prenatal care that reaches the current standard of care guiding the profession, including all the following:

  • Performing routine ultrasounds and other important prenatal tests according to appropriate scheduling – in order to spot and address potential medical concerns before they lead to dangerous complications
  • Providing appropriate prenatal care, including controlling for any existing maternal healthcare concerns, such as diabetes or high blood pressure and related medications
  • Monitoring for the mother’s overall well-being, including her physical safety and mental health

Inadequate prenatal care can harm both mother and child and is closely associated with the following:

  • Placenta previa
  • Abnormal or restricted fetal growth
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Umbilical cord issues
  • Additional complications that increase the risk of birth injuries and potential fatalities

Unidentified, Misdiagnosed, Untreated, or Mistreated Maternal Medical Conditions

An important part of prenatal care is addressing the overall medical condition of the mother, but because this component is so critical, it deserves attention of its own. When a mother has a medical condition that isn’t identified, that is misdiagnosed, that is left untreated, or that is mistreated, it can lead to dire consequences for both the mother and the infant. This makes regular checkups and screenings key.

Each of the following maternal conditions can increase the risk associated with the pregnancy, which means that additional vigilance is required:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular concerns that affect the mother’s blood vessels and heart
  • Bleeding, blood clots, or anemia
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Certain infections, such as HIV, UTIs, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, human papillomavirus, and some other sexually transmitted infections
  • Mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression

Medical Errors

Sometimes, birth injuries are caused by outright errors made during prenatal care or labor and delivery, which can include all the following:

  • When the attending doctor prescribes medications to the mother that pose dangerous side effects or even known risks to the fetus
  • When the attending medical professionals administer the wrong medications or the wrong amount of a medication
  • When the attending doctor implements either the forceps or vacuum extractor incorrectly during labor
  • When the attending doctor fails to adequately respond to emerging maternal emergencies, such as bleeding
  • When the attending medical professionals fail to adequately respond to changes in fetal heart rate or to fetal distress.
  • When there is miscommunication between the attending doctor and the other medical professionals involved
  • When complications arise due to a preventable premature delivery
  • When the attending doctor delays performing a C-section when it is medically indicated

Common Birth Injuries

Medical negligence can lead to a wide range of birth injuries, but there are specific kinds of injuries that are most common.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is one of the most common injuries that full-term babies suffer. This condition is related to a lack of oxygen – generally during the birth process – and the consequences tend to be very serious, long-lasting, and costly. The fetal brain requires sufficient oxygen as well as adequate blood flow, and even short lapses in either can lead to HIE.

Cerebral Palsy

Some infants who are diagnosed with HIE go on to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) as the brain damage they’ve suffered becomes more apparent with time. CP interferes with the sufferer’s ability to do the following:

  • Control their muscles
  • Restrict their movements
  • Maintain their balance
  • Correct their posture

CP can be the result of birth trauma, infections like meningitis, lack of oxygen, and other complications – especially those that affect the child’s head. To make things more challenging, those with CP can also experience related conditions, including:

  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Seizures
  • Spine irregularities
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Scoliosis
  • Joint issues

While there is no cure for CP, early intervention and proper treatment and care can help manage the condition and improve the overall quality of life.

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy is the most common form of brachial plexus palsy, and it affects the muscles of both the shoulder and the elbow. Erb’s palsy is closely associated with difficult births that lead to dangerous stretching or bending of the baby’s neck and head. Conditions and circumstances that commonly cause Erb’s palsy include:

  • Breech positioning of the baby
  • Maternal diabetes that goes untreated or that is inadequately or improperly treated
  • Operative vaginal deliveries, which refers to those that involve forceps or a vacuum extractor
  • Excessive fundal pressure, which is pushing on the top of the mother’s stomach during the delivery process
  • Excessive pulling on the baby’s head during the delivery process
  • A baby that is large for its gestational age

Other forms of brachial plexus palsy can lead to even more profound complications in the area of the shoulder and elbow, which can lead to a total restriction or a complete loss of muscle functioning in the child’s hand, wrist, and elbow.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries in newborns are frequently caused by medical malpractice, such as:

  • Using overly aggressive physical maneuvers to facilitate the birth
  • Pulling or twisting the baby to hasten birth in the face of complications
  • Applying excessive force on the child’s spinal cord during delivery, such as when tools are used improperly

Newborns with spinal cord injuries often lack muscle control in their limbs or appear loose and floppy. Other indicators include breathing issues, weak reflexes, muscle spasms, and a loss of bladder and bowel function.

Head Trauma

Trauma to a newborn’s head during the birthing process can occur outside the skull, which is called extracranial, or within the skull, which is called intracranial. The physical damage can range from mild bruising and swelling to brain bleeds and intracranial fractures. Even relatively mild head trauma, however, can prove serious.

All of the following are common causes of head trauma:

  • The improper use of forceps or suction during delivery
  • Prolonged and aggressive contractions
  • Difficulty pushing the baby through the birth canal

The Medical Team’s Duty of Care

Medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, specialists, and beyond, are responsible for protecting the well-being of their patients, and this is referred to as the duty of care owed. While doctors are only human and can make mistakes, medical malpractice applies when the mistake in question relates to the doctor failing to follow the same protocols that other reasonable medical professionals follow in similar situations. In these instances, those injured by a doctor’s negligence can seek compensation for the related physical, financial, and emotional losses they experience.

Some Birth Injuries Happen Because Doctors Don’t Spot Them

Some birth injuries happen because doctors don’t spot warning signs during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. In other cases, doctors simply don’t have enough experience to handle a crisis when it arises.

Whatever the cause, birth injuries are heartbreaking, and victims deserve compensation. We all depend on the expertise of healthcare professionals, and we need them to exercise due care when bringing new life into this world.

After all, it isn’t your job to understand medical warning signs, make a diagnosis, write a prescription, or perform a life-saving procedure. Those are the healthcare professionals’ responsibilities, and if they breach their standards of care, they can be held liable for the damages.

The birth injury attorneys at Malman Law have helped countless families in the face of trauma during the last twenty years. We’ve recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients.

These are some of the most challenging and emotionally demanding cases we handle. We understand, though, that the victims of birth injury have a long and difficult road before them, and it is our mission to get them as much financial relief as possible for the journey ahead.

Consult with an Experienced Chicago Birth Injury Attorney Today

The birth injury attorneys at Malman Law are dedicated to helping families who are harmed by medical malpractice. Over the last twenty years, we’ve helped countless clients like you in the face of similar trauma, and in the process, we’ve recovered millions of dollars in compensation.

Birth injury cases are some of the most emotionally fraught and legally challenging cases we handle, and we’re committed to fiercely advocating for each of these case’s best possible resolution – in pursuit of fair compensation that allows those harmed to journey forward toward their most complete recoveries and fullest lives. To learn more about what we can do to help you, please don’t wait to contact us online or call us at 888-407-3294 today.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

Most common questions for Birth Injury accidents in Chicago

Answers to some of the most common Birth Injury questions we’re asked.

Shoulder dystocia

During delivery, the baby’s shoulder may become lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bone, presenting an urgent life-or-death medical emergency.

Erb’s palsy

A nerve injury that impairs movement and sensation in the arm, Erb’s palsy is often caused by shoulder dystocia. It is the most common type of brachial plexus injury, meaning it involves the brachial plexus nerves in the neck and shoulder.

Breech birth

In most cases, a baby’s head should be delivered first. Feet-first deliveries constitute a “breech birth” and cause a wide range of medical problems.


Characterized by high blood pressure and bodily distress in the mother, preeclampsia threatens the life of both mother and child. Unchecked, it can lead to birth injuries, full-blown eclampsia, or even death.

Birth asphyxia

Labor and delivery are sensitive, vulnerable procedures. Almost any error can threaten the baby’s oxygen supply. Even momentary oxygen deprivation can cause permanent brain damage or death. One common result is a dangerous brain condition called Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL).

Forceps Injuries

Doctors sometimes use forceps to aid in delivery, but extreme diligence and caution are required. The slightest error can cause catastrophic injury to the baby. The same is true for vacuum extractor injuries.

Negligent C-Section

Cesarean sections are dangerous procedures requiring a doctor’s expert skill and care. Any error could cause serious damage and may constitute medical malpractice.