Nerve Injury from Forceps Lawsuit

The birth of a baby is one of life’s happiest moments and brings indescribable joy to their parents. But when emergencies happen during delivery, it can quickly become the scariest moment in a parent’s life. Challenging births can be caused by many things, but when labor isn’t progressing or if the baby’s safety depends on it, doctors may opt to use forceps to guide the baby down the birth canal.

This emergency procedure can be the lifesaving miracle a baby needs to survive a challenging delivery. But the use of forceps puts mother and baby at increased risk of life-threatening injuries and potential lifelong health problems.

Where there are benefits, there are also risks. A forceps delivery can save a baby and mother’s life, but it can also lead to other injuries and health problems. Some parents whose child suffered severe, life-altering injuries after being born with the assistance of forceps have filed medical malpractice suits against the doctors and hospitals that put their child’s life at risk. These lawsuits accuse the doctor or hospital of negligence that caused injury to the patient.

Forceps births that lead to serious injury are sometimes the subject of medical malpractice suits. Filing a lawsuit may help an individual injured as a result of negligent healthcare recoup damages such as lost wages and medical bills.

What is a Forceps Delivery?

A forceps delivery is a type of assisted vaginal delivery. Doctors will sometimes use forceps to guide the baby through the birth canal when labor isn’t progressing or if the baby becomes distressed during childbirth.

Forceps are a type of tool that resembles two large spoons or salad tongs. They are used by doctors to guide the baby’s head down the birth canal. Doctors place the open end of the forceps around the baby’s head and gently pull the baby down during a contraction.

Doctors may recommend a forceps delivery if a mother is experiencing a prolonged second stage of delivery. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the second stage of delivery is defined as “the point at which the rate of change of cervical dilation significantly increases.” A prolonged second stage can increase the risk of injury and other complications.

If labor isn’t progressing or the baby becomes distressed during the birthing process, the doctor may use forceps to help the baby out. There are certain risks associated with a forceps delivery, including increased risk of skull fracture and brain damage. If the use of forceps is unsuccessful, doctors may perform an emergency cesarean delivery (C-section).

When do Doctors use Forceps?

Doctors may choose to deliver the baby using forceps if a woman’s child labor meets specific criteria. To meet that criteria, a woman’s cervix must be dilated, her membranes must have ruptured, and the baby must have descended into the birth canal head first. If the criteria are met, and the mother is unable to push the baby out on her own, doctors may then choose to use forceps.

A health care provider might do a forceps delivery if:

  • A mother is pushing, but labor isn’t progressing.
  • The baby’s heartbeat changes. Doctors may become concerned if the baby’s heart rate drops and it is low in the birth canal. At that time they may use forceps to try to get the baby out immediately.
  • Health issues in the mother such as heart disease or high blood pressure may require the use of forceps to decrease the amount of time the mother is pushing.

Doctors should only perform a forceps delivery if the hospital or birthing center is also able to perform a C-section if necessary. When forceps are unsuccessful, a C-section will then be performed.

Possible Forceps Delivery Injury

There are risks associated with forceps deliveries, and both mother and baby are at increased risk of specific injuries. While severe forceps delivery injuries are usually rare, they may possibly cause life-altering injuries in baby and mother.

Mothers are at increased risk for complications that include:

  • 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)

Babies are at increased risk of specific birth injuries when forceps are used during delivery. Injuries due to forceps delivery can include:

  • 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 and Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect balance, movement, and muscle tone. Cerebral palsy can be caused when the brain doesn’t develop in certain areas or by traumatic injury during or shortly after birth.

Although rare, cerebral palsy can be caused by brain damage during or after birth. Complicated labor and delivery can cause problems with the baby’s breathing or circulatory system. This may increase the risk of the baby acquiring cerebral palsy.

Signs of cerebral palsy typically show up during infancy or during a child’s preschool years. These signs include impaired movement associated with abnormal reflexes, floppiness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, unsteady walking, or some combination of these.

Cerebral palsy may cause difficulties swallowing or eye muscle imbalance, in which the eyes don’t focus on the same object. Cerebral palsy may also cause reduced ranges of motion at different joints in the body due to muscle stiffness. It may also cause epilepsy, blindness, or deafness.

The degree to which cerebral palsy affects a person’s functional abilities varies greatly. Some people with cerebral palsy can walk while others can’t; some show standard intellectual capacity while others may have intellectual disabilities.

Symptoms of Forceps Nerve Injury

Forceps nerve injury occurs when damaged nerves cause a loss of facial movement. When this happens, the face may appear to droop or become weak. It can happen on one or both sides of the face.

During a forceps delivery, the baby’s nerves may be injured due to the pressure from the forceps. This causes forceps nerve injury, which may cause the baby’s facial muscles to droop. Facial nerve palsy caused by forceps is a common occurrence (8.8 cases per 1000 births) and has been written about in medical literature for over 150 years.

The majority of reported nerve damage is associated with the delivery method, including the use of forceps during delivery. Most cases of forceps nerve injury and facial nerve palsy, however, resolve within a few weeks to months without any additional medical treatment. Once the nerves heal, the muscles will go back to normal. It is estimated that 90 percent of these types of injuries resolve themselves in time.

Though most cases of nerve injury resolves itself, there is a risk of traumatic brain injury during forceps deliveries, which may put the baby at increased risk for developing brain-injury-related disorders such as cerebral palsy.

Forceps Birth Injury Lawsuits

When emergencies happen during labor and delivery, doctors might reach for a pair of forceps in an attempt to get the baby out as fast as possible. Birth injuries are a potential risk of these types of deliveries, including nerve damage due to the pressure of the forceps. In rare cases, trauma sustained at birth can cause life-altering brain injuries and increase the baby’s risk of developing cerebral palsy.

When a baby is injured during a forceps delivery, and there is potential negligence involved, the parents may choose to file a lawsuit against the doctor or hospital. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit may give parents the chance to recoup the cost of medical bills and lost wages, and the cost of future medical care for the child.

Hiring an experienced attorney can help parents affected by negligent birth injuries hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence and wrongdoing. It can also mean money for the lifelong medical expenses parents will have to pay for their child’s continuing care. Parents whose child suffered birth injuries such as nerve injury or facial palsy should contact a lawyer or attorney today.