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Forceps Nerve Injury Lawsuit

One of the happiest moments in a parent’s life is the birth of their baby. But emergencies that happen during birth can quickly turn one of life’s most precious moments into one of the scariest. Problems during delivery can occur for many reasons, and when labor isn’t progressing, or the baby’s life depends on it, doctors could reach for a pair of forceps to help deliver the baby faster.

Forceps deliveries can be a lifesaving delivery method for the baby and mother, but they can also put them both at increased risk of severe injuries and potentially lifelong health problems. In rare cases, forceps deliveries can cause life-altering brain and nerve injuries.

Parents whose child suffered severe, life-changing injuries after a forceps delivery was performed may choose to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor or hospital if negligence or wrongdoing is suspected. These lawsuits can help families recoup damages such as lost wages and pay for past and future medical bills. The lawsuits also hold the responsible party accountable for the pain and suffering they caused due to negligence.

If your child was born with birth injuries after being delivered with the assistance of forceps, you should contact an attorney right away to learn about your options for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.


What are forceps and how are they used?

Forceps are a medical tool that resembles two large spoons or a pair of salad tongs. Doctors use forceps during assisted vaginal delivery to guide the baby down the birth canal. They are often used in emergency situations when labor isn’t progressing or if the baby becomes distressed during childbirth.

During a forceps birth, doctors use forceps to guide the baby’s head down the birth canal. The open face of the forceps are placed around the baby’s head, and doctors gently pull the baby down the birth canal during a contraction.

If a mother is experiencing a prolonged second stage of delivery, doctors may recommend performing a forceps delivery. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) defines the second stage of childbirth as “the point at which the rate of change of cervical dilation significantly increases.” When the second stage of delivery is prolonged, it increases the risk of injury and other complications for the mom and her baby.

There are many risks associated with forceps deliveries, some of which can be severe and life-threatening. These risks include skull fractures and brain damage. Doctors may use forceps to help the baby out if labor isn’t progressing quickly enough or the baby becomes distressed during the birthing process. If forceps are not successful, doctors may need to do an emergency cesarean delivery (C-section).


When are forceps used?

When child labor meets specific criteria, doctors may use forceps to help deliver the baby. The requirements for forceps delivery are: a dilated cervix, ruptured membranes, the baby has descended into the birth canal head first. If these criteria are met, and the mother is unable to push the baby on her own, doctors may use forceps to assist in the delivery.

A doctor might perform a forceps delivery if:

  • A mother is pushing, but labor still isn’t progressing.
  • There is a change in the baby’s heartbeat. If the baby’s heart rate drops during delivery and the baby is low in the birth canal, doctors may use forceps to get the baby out immediately.
  • A mother has specific health issues such as heart disease or high blood pressure that may cause concern for doctors. The doctor may require the use of forceps to decrease the amount of time the mother is pushing during delivery.

In general, doctors should only perform a forceps delivery if the hospital or birthing center is able to perform a C-section, if necessary. A C-section is performed if the forceps delivery is unsuccessful.


Potential forceps birth injury

Forceps deliveries are associated with certain risks to both mother and baby. Severe injuries related to forceps are typically rare, but they can potentially cause life-changing injuries that require significant, ongoing medical care.

Mothers may be at an increased risk for injuries including:

  • Pain in the perineum
  • Lower genital tract tears
  • Difficulty urinating or emptying the bladder
  • Short- or long-term urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Injuries to the bladder or urethra
  • Uterine rupture
  • Weakening of the muscles and ligaments supporting the pelvic organs, causing pelvic organs to drop lower in the pelvis (pelvic organ prolapse)

During deliveries with forceps, babies are at an increased risk of specific birth injuries, including:

  • Minor facial injuries due to the pressure of the forceps
  • Nerve injuries due to the pressure of the forceps
  • Facial nerve palsy - temporary weakness in the facial muscles
  • Minor external eye trauma
  • Skull fractures
  • Bleeding within the skull
  • Seizures

Forceps Delivery & Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of disorders that affect balance, movement, and muscle tone. Cerebral palsy is caused when the brain doesn’t develop fully in certain areas. It can also be caused by traumatic injuries to the head either during or shortly after birth.

It is rarer for cerebral palsy to be caused by brain damage sustained during or after birth, but about 10 percent of cases are estimated to be a result of traumatic delivery or injury to head post-birth. Complicated deliveries can also cause problems with the baby’s breathing or its circulatory system.

Signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy usually develop during infancy or during a child’s preschool years. Signs might include impaired movement due to abnormal reflexes, abnormal posture, floppiness or rigidity in the limbs and trunk, unsteady walking, involuntary movements, or a combination of these.

People with cerebral palsy may have difficulties swallowing or have eye muscle imbalance, in which the eyes don’t focus on the same object. Some people may also experience reduced ranges of motion at different joints in the body because of muscle stiffness. Cerebral palsy can cause epilepsy, blindness, or deafness in some people, as well.

The degree to which a person is affected by cerebral palsy regarding their functional abilities varies significantly from person to person. Some people can walk with cerebral palsy while others cannot. Some show a standard intellectual capacity while others have some mental disabilities.


Signs and symptoms of forceps nerve injury

Forceps nerve injury is a possible risk of forceps delivery. It occurs when nerves get damaged by the pressure of the forceps causing a loss of movement in the face. The face may appear to droop or become weak when this happens. In some cases, nerve damage is experienced on both sides of the face, while in other cases it occurs on just one side.

Facial nerve palsy caused by forceps is a relatively common occurrence, with an estimated 8.8 cases per 1000 births. During delivery, forceps are used to pull the baby down the birth canal gently. To do this, doctors place the forceps around the baby’s head, which can cause pressure to build and nerves may be damaged in the process. Nerve damage caused by forceps has been written about in the medical literature for over 150 years.

It is known that most reported nerve damage during delivery is associated with the method of delivery. This includes the use of forceps during delivery. In most cases, forceps nerve injury and facial nerve palsy resolve themselves within a couple of weeks to months without additional medical treatment. The facial muscles go back to normal once the nerves heal, and it’s estimated that about 90 percent of these injuries resolve themselves with time.

Although the majority of nerve injury cases resolve themselves, there is a risk of more severe injuries during a forceps delivery. This includes the risk of traumatic brain injury, which may put the baby at an increased risk for developing more severe disorders like cerebral palsy.


Forceps Nerve Injury Lawsuits

When emergencies occur during labor, fast action can mean the difference between life and death. Doctors may reach for forceps if labor isn’t progressing or if the baby is in distress to get the baby out as fast as possible.

Birth injuries are possible in these types of deliveries, including the risk of nerve damage and facial nerve palsy due to the pressure of the forceps on the baby’s head. In rare cases, severe trauma may be sustained at birth, causing life-altering brain injuries such as cerebral palsy.

Forceps deliveries put both the baby and mother at risk. If a baby is injured during a forceps delivery and the parents suspect the injuries may have been caused by negligence or wrongdoing, they may choose to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor or hospital.

Filing a medical malpractice suit may be an opportunity for parents to recoup the cost of past and future medical bills, as well as lost wages. When a child suffers severe brain damage, that child often needs expensive medical care for the rest of their life.

Doing your due diligence when searching for an experienced attorney to handle your medical malpractice case is extremely important. Hiring an experienced lawyer can help you hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence and the birth injuries your child and family suffer from as a result. If your child sustained birth injuries such as nerve injury or facial nerve palsy after being delivered with the assistance of forceps, you should contact an attorney today.

References
  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Forceps delivery.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/forceps-delivery/about/pac-20394207. Accessed Sept. 30, 2018.
  2. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Obstetric-Care-Consensus-Series/Safe-Prevention-of-the-Primary-Cesarean-Delivery. Accessed Sept. 30, 2018.
  3. Dr. Irena Bird. “Assisted delivery with forceps.” Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000509.htm. Accessed Sept. 30, 2018.
  4. WebMD. “What Is Cerebral Palsy? What Causes It?” https://www.webmd.com/children/guide/understanding-cerebral-palsy-basic-information#1-2. Accessed Sept. 30, 2018.
  5. Drs. Melanie Duvall and Sam J. Daniel. “Facial Nerve Palsy in Neonates Secondary to Forceps Use.” Archives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/fullarticle/410281. Accessed Sept. 30, 2018.
  6. Mayo Clinic. “Cerebral Palsy - Symptoms and Causes.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cerebral-palsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20353999. Accessed Sept. 30, 2018.