The Most Common Birth Injury Claims – Medical Negligence During Childbirth

Written by
Rachael O’Shaughnessy on
16 March 2022

Birth and gynaecological injury claims may arise from complications during birth or surgery for procedures. 

Some Examples of Medical Malpractice During Childbirth:

  • Hysterectomy
  • Oophorectomy
  • Embolisation
  • Laparoscopic sterilisation
  • Bladder perforation
  • Perineal tear

Birth Injury to The Mother Claims

Childbirth should result in a happy outcome for the mother, but this is not always the case. Injuries that occur during childbirth can leave the mother with physical and psychological suffering that endures for years. 

All mothers are entitled to a high standard of antenatal care. If there are indications that all may not be well, your midwife, nurse or doctor should identify them and seek to avoid a birth injury. If you are a mother who has suffered a birth injury, you may be entitled to make a claim.

  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse Claims

Pelvic organ prolapse is a distressing condition caused when the pelvic muscles are damaged or weakened and one or more of the organs inside the pelvis – uterus, bladder, rectum - drop down towards the vagina, causing bladder and bowel problems and discomfort or numbness during sex.

  • Pudendal Nerve Damage Claims

A mother may have a medical negligence claim if her labour was mismanaged and involved a difficult delivery, or her baby should have been delivered by a caesarean section and was not and, as a result, she suffered pudendal nerve damage.

  • Perineal Tear Injury Claims

Perineal or vaginal tears involve a split in the skin and muscles between the vagina and the rectum, usually during natural childbirth. It is a common occurrence in vaginal births, but it can be caused by negligent medical treatment. 

Effects of Perineal Tear Injuries

Women who carry babies weighing more than 8lb or 4kg are more likely to suffer a perineal tear. The risk is also higher during labours in which the second stage happens quickly or when assisted delivery (using a forceps or ventouse) is required. 

The injury can cause severe pain to the pelvic and abdominal areas, negatively affecting the bonding between mother and child and increasing the risk of postnatal depression.

Symptoms can be long-lasting and cause serious pain and suffering in a woman’s life. If a woman suffers a perineal tear injury without a clear reason, it may be worth reviewing medical records to see if medical negligence occurred.


Birth Injury to The Child Claims

During delivery not only can the life and long-term health of the mother be put a risk but also that of the newborn child. The following are some examples of birth injuries that a child may sustain as a result of medical negligence.

Cerebral Palsy Claims

Cerebral Palsy is a congenital (existing before birth) condition that affects muscle tone, movement, and coordination. It can result in other health issues, including difficulties with speech, vision, and hearing, as well as learning disabilities in children. It is incurable, but the right treatment (including therapy, special equipment, and possibly surgery) can help improve quality of life. 

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy 

It is the more common and serious form. It makes it difficult for the muscles to relax, so control and movement are poor. It is often associated with severe learning difficulties and a shortened life expectancy. 

  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy 

This form of cerebral palsy presents with less pronounced symptoms. The subtle symptoms are often associated with problems with balance, speech and, on occasions, shaky hand movements.

Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Problems or complications during a mother’s labour and delivery seldom cause Cerebral Palsy. It often results from problems during pregnancy when a foetus's brain is either damaged or develops abnormally. 

However, Cerebral Palsy can be caused by negligence on the part of the doctor, nurse or midwife. 

Examples include:

  • Medical personnel not responding appropriately to an abnormal CGT trace or to changes in the baby’s heart rate indicated by the CGT monitor
  • Medical personnel not identifying or treating a mother’s high blood pressure or toxaemia (blood poisoning from a bacterial infection)
  • Improper administration of Oxytocin/Synclinem to induce or accelerate labour.
  • Injuries caused by forceps/vacuum delivery
  • Injuries caused to the baby if the placenta separates from the uterus before birth (placental abruption)
  • Injuries caused by poorly performed resuscitation of a sick newborn
  • Depriving the baby of oxygen by leaving them in the birth canal for too long (intrapartum asphyxia)
  • Failure to perform a caesarean section when required

Erb's Palsy Disorder Claims

Erb's Palsy may result if the nerves in a baby's upper arm are damaged as the head and shoulders pass through the birth canal. A form of obstetric brachial plexus disorder, it affects the spinal cord’s ability to send messages to the arm. In most cases, the baby is unable to move the affected shoulder or arm.

Erb’s Palsy Symptoms

  • The baby experiences pain or difficulty moving their arm
  • The baby holds their arm against their body with a bent elbow
  • The baby struggles to grip objects 
  • Circulatory, muscular and nervous development are affected
  • The arm is numb
  • The arm is fully or partially paralysed
  • Facial Paralysis Claims

Facial paralysis is one of the most common reasons for childbirth malpractice claims. Facial nerve palsy caused by birth trauma is the loss of voluntary muscle movement in a baby’s face due to pressure on the facial nerve in the face just before or during birth.

If you are considering making a facial paralysis claim, you need to prove that the birth injury was caused by a third party’s negligence. This kind of birth injury can have lasting effects on the child’s quality of life. 

  • Spinal Injuries Claims

A spinal injury can occur during birth if a medical practitioner damages the baby’s neck by pulling, twisting, or using tools to remove the baby from the birth canal. If damage to the spine before birth goes undiagnosed, this can also cause a spinal injury during delivery.

To make a spinal injuries claim, you should consult an experienced solicitor. They will guide you through the process of establishing liability and pursuing the claim.

  • Fractured Bones Claims

Damage from instruments such as forceps or vacuum extractors is the most common cause of infant skull fractures during childbirth. 

Rare bone diseases can also result in infant fractures. Among such conditions are osteopetrosis, infantile severe hypophosphatasia, congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, congenital rickets, and congenital cytomegalovirus infection.

To make a claim for fractured bones during childbirth, you will need to establish that the injury was caused by the actions or negligence of a third party.

  • Lack of Oxygen (Hypoxia) Claims

Hypoxia occurs when a baby doesn’t get enough oxygen to its brain before, during, or after delivery. The condition can cause brain injury, and if it’s not treated properly, it could progress to a permanent disorder, such as cerebral palsy, cognitive deficiencies, or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

As with all personal injuries claims, you will need to establish that the hypoxia occurred due to the actions or negligence of somebody else.

  • Untreated Jaundice Claims

Jaundice is extremely common in newborn babies, but treatment is usually only needed if your baby has high levels of a substance called bilirubin in their blood. Most babies with jaundice will not require treatment because the level of bilirubin in their blood is low. In these cases, the jaundice usually disappears within a fortnight and causes no harm to your baby. 

In rare cases, severe jaundice that goes untreated can result in a condition called kernicterus. This is a form of brain damage caused by elevated levels of bilirubin in a baby’s blood. It can lead to athetoid cerebral palsy and hearing loss.

If your baby has become ill due to untreated jaundice, you may be entitled to make a claim. Consult your personal injuries solicitor for guidance. 


Other Gynaecological and Obstetric Injury Claims

Forceps Injury Claims

When a birth is not progressing as it should, tools such as forceps may be used to deliver the baby. Medical negligence may occur if the medical practitioner does not use the forceps properly. This can cause injury to the mother or the baby. 

If you have suffered injury through the improper use of forceps by a medical professional, you should speak to a personal injuries solicitor as soon as possible.

Medical negligence that can lead to forceps injury claims may include:

  • Poor manipulation of the baby during delivery
  • Inadequate response to an emergency situation 
  • Blunt force trauma to the baby or the mother
  • Delay in removing the baby from the birth canal due to improper forceps use, placing prolonged pressure on the baby’s body
  • Vaginal tear injuries*

How to Make Medical Negligence Claims for Childbirth Injuries

If a mother is unhappy with the treatment that she herself, or indeed her child has received from during the birth of her child, she may wish to contact a solicitor who is an expert in the field of medical negligence to investigate the case. 

It can be a daunting task for a victim of medical negligence to consult with a solicitor to review the issues that they have had with their care. Here are the general steps involved in making medical negligence claims for childbirth injuries.

  • Consult a Solicitor

The first step in any case is for the solicitor to take up a copy of your medical records from the relevant doctor. 

The solicitor will review your records and instruct an independent expert to carry out a report to consider whether the treatment that you have received is below the standard of care that should normally be applied. 

If you are seeking the expertise of a solicitor in the specialised area of medical negligence, you should research the cases the solicitor has been involved in.

  • Establish Negligence and Causation

Negligence means that the medical treatment that the mother and/or her child received is below the standard of care that one would ordinarily expect to see that a patient should receive from a doctor, nurse or hospital.

It must then be considered that due to the negligent medical treatment that was administered the mother and/or child suffered further injury and sustained a loss. 

  • Gathering Proof/Medical Care 

We work closely with a team of doctors in Oxford who on review of your file will within a period of 21 days indicate to us whether there are issues that have arisen regarding your care.

We can obtain a screening report from the experts in the UK who from an initial review of the records can indicate the possible issues before proceeding to complete a full report on the issues in your case. On receipt of a positive report from the independent expert, we will meet with you to review the file and guide you on the next steps in the case.

If you are happy to proceed, a barrister will be briefed in order to draft court proceedings on your behalf. In order for a solicitor to issue proceedings in a medical negligence action, we must have a positive independent expert report before proceedings can be issued. 

We would not proceed with a case on your behalf unless we had a positive report from the medical expert and that we were confident of a successful conclusion of your case.


Time Limits for Birth Injuries Claims

The time limit for medical negligence claims is generally two years from the time of the alleged negligence. However, there are exceptions to this rule. 

Exceptions for Medical Negligence Legal Time Limits In Ireland

A victim may not be aware on the date of the alleged medical negligence that any negligence occurred. The person then arguably has two years less one day from the date of discovery of the alleged negligence. 

This could, for example, occur at a follow-up appointment when the patient discovers information about the origin of the negligence. Or indeed, it may not occur until the patient is in possession of a copy of his or her medical records. It is important to note that the date of discovery is the date the victim has constructive knowledge of the alleged medical negligence, in other words, when the victim should have known about it.

  • Time Limits for Children

Medical negligence claims involving children have a different time limit. Personal injury claims involving a minor (a person younger than 18) are approached differently to cases involving adults. A minor cannot make a claim until they turn 18. When they reach 18 years, they have 2 years less one day following their 18th birthday to issue court proceedings for a medical negligence claim. 

However, a parent or guardian may pursue a claim on their behalf before they turn 18 if they wish, under the “next friend rule.” Any settlement awarded to the child must be approved by way of a court ruling. Any settlement monies or court award is held in the Accountant's Office of the High Court until the minor reaches 18 years of age.

  • Time Limits for Individuals with a Disability

If the person to whom the right of action accrues is under a disability either at the time at which that right was accrued to them or at the date of their knowledge, the action may be brought at any time before the expiration of two years from the date when that person ceased to be under a disability or died, whichever event first occurred, notwithstanding that the usual two-year limitation period has expired.

  • Time Limits for Fatal Injury Claims

Where the death of a mother or child during childbirth is caused by the wrongful act of another, such as medical negligence, which would have entitled the deceased, but for their death, to maintain a personal injury claim and recover damages, such a claim may be brought by the dependents of the deceased. 

However, there may be only one claim. Such a claim shall not be brought after the expiration of two years from the date of the death or the date of knowledge of the person for whose benefit the action is brought, whichever is later.


Making a Medical Negligence Claim with HOMS Assist

At HOMS Assist, we have over 50 years of expertise in assisting clients with their medical negligence cases and assisting them to bring their cases to a successful conclusion. 

We understand that you or your family member may have been through a very stressful time in the medical treatment that you received. We are conscious of taking the stress out of the investigation of the case from you. 

We make the process of investigating your case straightforward. With your authority, we will take up a copy of your medical records and engage with our panel of medical expert witnesses to review your medical records. If the expert is of the opinion that negligence has occurred, we will proceed with an action on your behalf.


If you or your loved one has suffered from medical negligence during childbirth, you may be entitled to a birth & gynaecological claim.

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