Understanding Birth Injuries

Birth injuries are among the most heartbreaking and devastating events a family can experience. These injuries occur during labor and delivery and can have lifelong consequences for both the child and the parents. Birth injuries can result from various factors, including medical negligence, improper prenatal care, or complications during delivery. At Fulginiti Law, we are committed to providing compassionate and comprehensive legal support to families affected by birth injuries in Philadelphia.

Types of Birth Injuries

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) refers to a group of neurological disorders that affect movement, muscle tone, and posture. It is caused by damage to the developing brain, typically occurring before or during birth, although it can also happen shortly after birth or during early childhood. The damage disrupts the brain's ability to control movement and posture, leading to difficulties in motor function.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Spastic CP: Characterized by stiff and tight muscles, making movement difficult.

Athetoid CP: Involves involuntary and uncontrolled movements.

Ataxic CP: Affects balance and coordination, causing shaky movements.

Causes: The exact cause of cerebral palsy varies, but common factors include infections during pregnancy, premature birth, lack of oxygen to the brain (asphyxia), and head trauma during birth.

Symptoms: Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include stiff muscles, exaggerated reflexes, walking difficulties, involuntary movements, and problems with posture and balance.

Treatment: Management of cerebral palsy focuses on improving quality of life and minimizing complications. This may involve physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, medications to manage symptoms like muscle spasms, and in some cases, surgery to correct muscle contractures.

Erb's Palsy

Erb's palsy, also known as brachial plexus birth palsy, is a condition that affects the nerves in the baby's shoulder and upper arm. It typically occurs during a difficult birth when the baby's shoulder becomes impacted against the mother's pelvic bone.

Causes: The condition results from damage to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that controls movement and sensation in the shoulder, arm, and hand. This damage can occur due to excessive stretching or pulling during birth.

Symptoms: Erb's palsy can lead to weakness or paralysis of the affected arm, limited mobility, and abnormal muscle contractions (muscle stiffness or looseness).

Treatment: Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the injury. Mild cases may resolve with physical therapy and gentle exercises to improve range of motion. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace damaged nerves.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a serious birth injury caused by reduced blood flow and oxygen to the baby's brain before, during, or immediately after birth. This lack of oxygen and blood flow can lead to brain damage, affecting the baby's neurological function.

Causes: HIE can result from various complications during childbirth, including placental abruption (when the placenta separates from the uterus prematurely), umbilical cord issues (such as umbilical cord prolapse or entanglement), and maternal complications like high blood pressure or infections.

Symptoms: Symptoms of HIE may not be immediately apparent but can include seizures, difficulty feeding, lethargy, abnormal muscle tone (either too stiff or too floppy), and developmental delays.

Treatment: Treatment focuses on reducing further brain damage and supporting brain recovery. Therapeutic hypothermia (cooling therapy) is often used to lower the baby's body temperature and reduce the risk of long-term neurological damage. Rehabilitation therapies, medications to control seizures, and supportive care are also part of the treatment plan.


Fractures are relatively common birth injuries, typically involving the clavicle (collarbone) or other bones in the baby's body. These fractures can occur during delivery, especially in cases of difficult or prolonged labor.

Causes: Fractures during birth can result from the baby's position in the birth canal, the use of forceps or vacuum extractors during delivery, or excessive pressure applied during delivery maneuvers.

Symptoms: Symptoms of fractures may include pain, swelling, bruising, and restricted movement of the affected limb or body part.

Treatment: Most birth fractures heal well with proper medical care and immobilization of the affected area. Gentle handling, splinting or casting, and pain management may be necessary depending on the location and severity of the fracture.

Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum refers to swelling of the soft tissues of the baby's scalp, typically appearing as a fluid-filled lump or puffiness. It is caused by pressure on the baby's head during labor and delivery.

Causes: Caput succedaneum often occurs when there is prolonged pressure on the baby's head against the mother's cervix or vaginal wall during labor.

Symptoms: Symptoms include soft swelling or edema on the baby's scalp that may extend beyond the area of the presenting part of the head.

Treatment: Caput succedaneum usually resolves on its own within a few days after birth without specific treatment. Monitoring for signs of infection and providing gentle care for the affected area are important.


Cephalohematoma is a collection of blood between the baby's skull and the periosteum (the membrane covering the bones), typically appearing as a raised lump on the baby's head.

Causes: Cephalohematoma occurs due to trauma or pressure on the baby's head during delivery, such as from the use of forceps or vacuum extractors.

Symptoms: The main symptom is a palpable lump on the baby's head that may increase in size in the first few days after birth. The area over the hematoma may also become firm and feel warm.

Treatment: Cephalohematoma often resolves on its own over several weeks to months as the body gradually reabsorbs the blood. Monitoring for complications, such as jaundice or infection, and providing supportive care are essential.

Causes of Birth Injuries

Birth injuries can arise from a multitude of factors, often involving complex interactions between maternal health, fetal conditions, and the care provided by medical professionals. Some common causes include:

Medical Negligence

Medical negligence plays a significant role in many birth injuries. This can involve errors or omissions by healthcare providers during prenatal care, labor, and delivery. Specific instances of negligence include:

Failure to Monitor Fetal Distress: Medical professionals must closely monitor the baby’s heart rate and other vital signs during labor. Failure to recognize and respond to signs of fetal distress, such as abnormal heart rates, can lead to conditions like hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and subsequent cerebral palsy.  

Delayed C-Section: When complications arise during labor, a timely cesarean section may be necessary to prevent injury to the baby. Delays in performing a C-section can result in prolonged oxygen deprivation, causing severe brain injuries.

Improper Use of Delivery Instruments: The use of forceps or vacuum extractors during delivery can lead to significant trauma if not applied correctly. This can cause skull fractures, intracranial hemorrhages, and nerve damage leading to conditions such as Erb’s palsy.

Medication Errors: Administering incorrect medication or dosages during labor can adversely affect both the mother and the baby. For example, excessive use of Pitocin to induce labor can lead to overly strong contractions, causing stress to the baby and increasing the risk of injury.

Improper Prenatal Care

Adequate prenatal care is critical to identify and manage potential risks to both the mother and the baby. Inadequate care can result in undiagnosed or poorly managed conditions that contribute to birth injuries, such as:

Gestational Diabetes: If not properly monitored and controlled, gestational diabetes can lead to macrosomia (large baby), increasing the risk of birth injuries during delivery.

Preeclampsia: This condition involves high blood pressure during pregnancy and can lead to preterm birth and placental abruption if not adequately managed, posing risks to both mother and baby.

Infections: Untreated maternal infections can be transmitted to the baby during birth, leading to complications such as sepsis or meningitis, which can cause long-term neurological damage.

Complications During Delivery

Various complications can arise during delivery, increasing the risk of birth injuries:

Prolonged Labor: Extended labor can cause physical stress and oxygen deprivation to the baby, leading to conditions such as cerebral palsy or HIE.

Breech Birth: When a baby is positioned feet-first rather than head-first, the delivery becomes more complicated and riskier, potentially resulting in physical trauma or oxygen deprivation.

Umbilical Cord Issues: Problems such as umbilical cord prolapse or nuchal cord (cord wrapped around the baby’s neck) can restrict oxygen flow to the baby, leading to brain damage if not promptly addressed.

Symptoms and Long-Term Effects

The symptoms and long-term effects of birth injuries depend on the type and severity of the injury. These effects can range from mild to severe and can impact various aspects of the child's development and quality of life. Below are detailed explanations of the symptoms and potential long-term effects of common birth injuries:

Cerebral Palsy

Symptoms: Muscle stiffness or floppiness, involuntary movements, poor coordination and balance, difficulty with fine motor skills, delayed development milestones (such as sitting, crawling, or walking), seizures, and difficulty swallowing or speaking.

Long-Term Effects: Children with cerebral palsy may require lifelong physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Severe cases might necessitate the use of mobility aids, such as wheelchairs. Cognitive impairments and learning disabilities are also common, requiring special education services.

 Erb’s Palsy

Symptoms: Weakness or paralysis in the affected arm, loss of sensation, muscle atrophy, and a limited range of motion in the shoulder, arm, and hand.

Long-Term Effects: While some infants recover with physical therapy, others may experience permanent weakness or paralysis. Severe cases might require surgical intervention to improve arm function.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

Symptoms: Low Apgar scores at birth, weak muscle tone, difficulty breathing, seizures, poor feeding, and lethargy.

Long-Term Effects: Children with HIE may develop cerebral palsy, cognitive impairments, epilepsy, vision and hearing problems, and developmental delays. Intensive early intervention and ongoing therapies are often required to maximize the child’s potential.


Symptoms: Pain, swelling, limited movement, and deformity in the affected area.

Long-Term Effects: Most fractures heal without long-term consequences, but severe cases, such as those involving growth plates, can affect bone development and require surgical intervention.

Caput Succedaneum

Symptoms: Swelling and bruising on the baby’s scalp, which usually appears shortly after birth.

Long-Term Effects: Caput succedaneum typically resolves on its own within a few days and does not result in long-term effects. However, monitoring is necessary to ensure no complications arise.


Symptoms: A soft, raised area on the baby’s head, which may appear several hours after birth due to blood pooling between the scalp and the skull.

Long-Term Effects: Most cephalohematomas resolve without intervention over weeks to months. However, in some cases, calcification can occur, potentially leading to a hard mass. Rarely, underlying skull fractures or infection can complicate the condition.

Legal Representation for Birth Injury Victims

At Fulginiti Law, we understand the profound impact that a birth injury can have on a family. Our dedicated team of catastrophic injury attorneys is committed to providing compassionate and comprehensive legal support to families affected by birth injuries in Philadelphia.

How Fulginiti Law Can Help

Thorough Investigation

Our legal team conducts a meticulous investigation into the circumstances of the birth injury. We gather all necessary evidence, including medical records, expert testimonies, and witness statements, to build a strong case on your behalf.

Expert Collaboration

We work with a network of medical professionals, including pediatricians, neurologists, and obstetricians, to fully understand the extent of the injury and its impact on your child's life. This collaboration ensures we can effectively demonstrate the severity of the injury and secure the compensation you deserve.

Personalized Legal Strategy

Every birth injury case is unique, and we tailor our legal approach to meet your specific needs. Whether negotiating a settlement or litigating in court, our attorneys are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcome for you.

Comprehensive Compensation

We fight for full and fair compensation, covering:

  • Medical expenses, including ongoing and future care
  • Rehabilitation and therapy costs
  • Special education and assistive devices
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Emotional distress

Contact Fulginiti Law

If your child has suffered a birth injury due to medical negligence or other factors, it is crucial to seek experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Fulginiti Law is here to support you every step of the way, providing the expertise and dedication needed to navigate the complexities of birth injury cases.

Free Consultation

We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case and explore your legal options. Contact Fulginiti Law today to schedule your consultation and take the first step towards securing the justice and compensation your family deserves.