chicago personal injury lawyers

Chicago Birth Injuries: Oversized Babies Pose Higher Risks

September 12, 2013

Malpractice lawyers in Chicago know that birth injuries are among the most devastating types of injuries that can occur. Birth injuries generally have two primary causes: hypoxia (deprivation of oxygen) or trauma. Unfortunately, the larger a baby is, the more likely it is that the baby and mother will be harmed during the labor process. As such, a recent trend in big babies has medical professionals concerned and is something that doctors need to be aware of and respond to properly.

Oversized Babies Increase the Risk of Birth Injuries

According to NBC News Health,  a growing number of infants are far larger than the standard at birth.  Just this summer alone, mothers gave birth to a 13.5 pound German baby girl, a 13-pound, 10-ounce California baby and a 13-pound, 11-ounce little girl born in Spain.

The increase in big babies may be explained by two risk factors: (1) later-in-life births, increasing the number of mothers with gestational diabetes, and (2) rising rates of obesity, resulting in more obese mothers giving birth.  These conditions have resulted in a 15 to 25 percent increase in babies weighing more than eight pounds, 13 ounces, in developed countries.  A baby larger than this weight is generally considered oversized.  

As more big babies are born, there is a greater chance of birth injuries occurring due to the inherent difficulties in birthing an oversized child.  A larger baby, for example, is at risk of shoulder dystocia and bone fractures.  Shoulder dystocia happens when the baby becomes lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone.

Doctors have to act quickly to extract the baby to minimize the risk of fetal distress and oxygen deprivation.  They also need to exercise care to minimize tearing in the mother in these situations. Unfortunately, the trauma from being extracted and the shoulder dystocia can cause damage, including injury to the brachial plexus nerves that results in Klumpke’s Palsy or Erb’s palsy.

Responding to the Problems of Large Babies 

In the United States, the response to the rise in maternal obesity (and big babies) has led to an increase in the rate of cesarean sections and to an increase in the number of situations where doctors are inducing labor before a baby grows too large. In fact, the efforts of doctors to prevent the births of oversized infants has actually caused the average birth rate to start to decline in the United States, even as that rate increases in the developed world as a whole.

Unfortunately, inducing labor and cesarean sections can both also be risky. When labor is induced, for example, the mother is typically given Pitocin. When used incorrectly, Pitocin can cause contractions to be too excessive and too frequent, which can make it difficult for the placenta to provide enough oxygen to the baby during the birthing process. This can cause hypoxia-related birth injuries.

Doctors must carefully balance the risks of the birth of a large baby with the other dangers associated with a C-section or inducing labor before the child gets too big. Regardless of the solution chosen, it is necessary for medical professionals to be reasonably careful in treating any mother and child where the birth of a big baby is involved.

Malpractice lawyers in Chicago can help with birth injury claims. Contact Coplan + Crane at 800-394-6002 for a free case evaluation or visit our Oak Park office.