Birth Injury Signs and Symptoms

There are many different signs and symptoms of a birth injury, some of which are immediately apparent and others that take time to appear. Many of these injuries and impairments occur due to medical negligence or malpractice. If your baby is experiencing birth injury symptoms, reach out to Sokolove Law for a free case review to learn your legal options.

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Immediate Signs and Symptoms of a Birth Injury

Some symptoms of a child birth injury may be obvious shortly after the baby is delivered. For example, if your baby is lying on their back, their head may lag a bit when you pick them up. The infant may also have a “stiff” feeling while being held.

Early signs of a birth injury may include:

  • Abrasions, bruises, or swelling on the infant’s face, head, or shoulder
  • Seizures that develop within 48 hours
  • The infant’s failure to begin breathing immediately following delivery
  • An infant requiring resuscitation (CPR or a breathing tube) at the time of delivery
  • A “floppy” appearance indicating lack of muscle tone
  • One arm that is limp in appearance

Keep in mind these are general birth injury signs and symptoms. It’s important to consult a medical professional if you see symptoms of a birth injury.

Birth Injury Symptoms that Develop Later

There are other signs of a birth injury that don’t show up until a child gets a little bit older. In fact, the severity of symptoms might not be clear for a year or longer.

These are examples of symptoms that may not appear until a baby is about a year old:

  • The child has trouble performing basic movements, such as clapping or grasping
  • An inability to crawl, walk, or sit up
  • Stiffness in the joints or muscles or an inability to control leg or arm movement

If you believe your baby’s injury may have been caused by medical malpractice or negligence, contact Sokolove Law, a national birth injury law firm.

Brain Injury at Birth Symptoms

Medical negligence can often lead to brain damage or a baby experiencing symptoms of a brain injury at birth. For example, bleeding of the brain due to the use of vacuum extractors can lead to shock. Symptoms include swelling that spreads from the neck to the ears. The ears may also seem out of place.

Skull fractures can occur after forceps are used during a delivery. If the baby has what looks like a dent in their head, that could be a sign that a fracture has occurred.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a very common developmental disability that’s often caused by brain injury at birth. In some cases, a medical professional’s mistake can contribute to the development of CP.

Medical errors can cause a rupture of the uterus or umbilical cord complications, such as the cord wrapping around the baby’s throat. These can cut off oxygen to the infant’s brain. Oxygen deprivation or asphyxia can result in cerebral palsy.

The most common sign that an infant may have CP is not reaching certain developmental milestones. These include standing, sitting, and rolling over.

Other signs of cerebral palsy include: 

  • Excessive drooling
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty eating
  • Stiff muscles or issues with muscle control or motor skills
  • Seeming to favor one side of the body — crawling while dragging one leg or reaching with one hand far more often than the other

Nerve Injury at Birth Symptoms

A baby can sometimes suffer severe nerve damage at birth, oftentimes due to an error on the part of a health care professional.

Doctors will sometimes use too much force in an effort to remove a baby from the birth canal, damaging the brachial plexus in the process. This is a group of nerves located by the neck that gives feeling to the arms, shoulders, hands, and fingers.

Erb’s palsy, for example, is a type of brachial plexus injury that leads to a loss of arm motion as well as arm weakness.

Brachial plexus injuries at birth symptoms can differ, depending on how much damage has occurred. In general, though, they include the following:

  • Numbness or weakness in one arm
  • Lack of arm movement, indicating a possibility of partial or complete paralysis
  • Limited range of motion

Klumpke’s palsy is another birth injury that affects the brachial plexus nerves. It leads to weakness of the hand and wrist.

Symptoms of Klumpke palsy include:

  • Limpness of the affected arm, or paralysis
  • Hand or forearm atrophy
  • Tightening of the fingers and wrist

If your baby is showing symptoms of a nerve injury at birth, talk to your doctor for medical advice. If you suspect medical malpractice may be responsible for your child’s birth injury, fill out the form on this page to see how Sokolove Law may be able to help.

Developmental Delays or Missed Milestones

Infants can miss certain developmental milestones, which can also be one of the symptoms of a child birth injury. These milestones include things like smiling, taking a first step, speaking and more.

If your baby hasn’t reached the following milestones, talk to your doctor to see if something may be wrong.

Milestones at 2 Months of Age

  • Smiling at people
  • Turning their head toward sounds
  • Making gurgling noises
  • Beginning to follow objects with their eyes
  • Making smoother leg and arm movements

Milestones at 6 Months of Age

  • Beginning to recognize familiar faces and being able to tell the difference between familiar people and strangers
  • Responding to the emotions of others
  • Seeming to be happy
  • Ability to pass objects from one hand to the other
  • Sitting without being supported
  • Rocking backward and forward

Milestones at 1 Year of Age

  • Acting nervous around strangers
  • Starting to cry when a parent leaves the room
  • Waving or shaking their head
  • Trying to talk
  • Playing a simple game, such as “peek-a-boo”
  • Pulling themselves up to stand
  • Walking while holding something, such as a piece of furniture
  • Standing on their own and taking a few steps

What Do I Do If My Child Shows Birth Injury Symptoms?

If you believe your child is showing signs of a birth injury, reach out to your doctor immediately for an evaluation of your child’s medical condition.

If your child suffered a birth injury that may have been due to medical negligence or medical malpractice, Sokolove Law may be able to help with your birth injury case. Fill out the form on this page to receive a free legal review today.

FAQs about Birth Injury Signs & Symptoms

What are common birth injuries?

Two of the most common birth injuries are cerebral palsy (CP) and Erb’s palsy. CP makes it hard to maintain balance and will often make it difficult for someone to walk without a mobility aid, such as a walker. In some instances, people with CP can’t walk at all and will need a wheelchair. Medical malpractice can often result in a baby developing CP.

Erb’s palsy happens when the brachial plexus is damaged. This is a group of nerves that provide feeling to the upper body, namely the shoulders, arms and hands. Being forcefully removed from the womb can severely damage these nerves in a baby, leading to a lifetime of complications.

If you see signs of a birth injury in your baby that may have led to CP or Erb’s palsy, the birth injury lawyers at Sokolove Law may be able to help. Fill out the form on this page to contact us for a free legal review.

How do I know if my baby has nerve damage?

There are many signs that a birth injury has led to nerve damage. In many cases, improper medical techniques, such as the use of forceps or a vacuum, can lead to severe injuries.

Here are just some of the signs that a child may have an injury affecting their nerves:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling
  • Lack of muscle development
  • Sensitivity
  • Numbness

How does a doctor check if a baby is OK right after delivery?

Doctors perform a test known as the Apgar score to a newborn. It checks muscle tone, heart rate, respiration, skin color, and reflexes.

The test is performed at least twice — at 1 minute after birth and again 5 minutes after birth. The first shows how the baby handled the process of birth, while the second shows how well the baby is faring outside of the mother’s womb.

The Apgar score is listed as either 0, 1, or 2. The higher the number, the better the baby is doing. For example, if the infant is crying, that would lead to a respiration score of 2. If breathing is irregular or slow, the score is 1. The score is 0 if the infant isn’t breathing at all.

When should I contact a lawyer if my child shows signs of a birth injury?

If your child is exhibiting birth injury symptoms, get in touch with an attorney as soon as you can.

While a birth injury law firm may be able to help you obtain compensation, you only have so much time to take legal action. This time period is known as the statute of limitations.

If you try to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed, your case will be dismissed — regardless of how strong your case may be or how badly your child has been injured.

Different states have different statutes of limitations, so contact Sokolove Law as quickly as possible. Get a free consultation today by filling out the form on this page.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: November 8, 2021

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