Our website looks to inform you about all aspects of birth from the absolute joy and love you’ll feel through to the hard truths and sometimes scary situations you might face as a new parent. This article falls into the second batch of advice, but it’s important to remember; birth injury is rare and being aware of it does not necessarily mean it will happen to you. Also, if you’ve had a traumatic birth, it doesn’t automatically mean you suffered an injury. Now we’ve got those clarifications out of the way, let’s get started; first of all, what is a birth injury?
Birth injury is a broad term which can apply to injuries suffered by mother or child during the delivery process but is mainly about injuries to the baby. Thanks to the way humans give birth, there’s usually some degree of bruising or minor injury when a birth goes well and according to plan, even if a forceps or a vacuum delivery take place. It might be a little disturbing to see but in the vast majority of cases, any injuries will heal within a week or two and there will be no lasting signs of trauma. In a small number of cases, there might be complications with delivery where injuries go beyond bruising and may lead to broken bones, nerve damage, lack of oxygen or even brain damage. The latter two can lead to life-long conditions that require a lot of treatment and extra living support.
Now we’re clued up on what birth injury can be, what can you do if you suspect something has gone wrong and you’re dealing with a birth injury?
Whether it’s before giving birth, during your stay at the hospital or months down the line; don’t be afraid to ask questions about the delivery of your baby. You should always be treated with respect and dignity, even if you have a midwife checking how far you’ve dilated at the time. When pregnant, a lot of women have the feeling that their body is not their own and so go along with what’s told to them because they’re not experienced in the situation they’re in. Unfortunately, as much as you want to believe that doctors, nurses and midwives are infallible, they’re not; so be brave and call them out, ask them hard questions and tell them if you’re unhappy.
Get an advocate
We know; it’s very easy to say “ask them questions” when we’re not giving birth or post-partum and working on 45 minutes of sleep. Speaking up when your whole world is in the process of changing and you’re about to meet the most important tiny person in your life is basically impossible, that’s why you should get an advocate. They can be a friend, a family member or a partner – it doesn’t matter. This is someone you can talk to about what happened, and some who perhaps saw things you couldn’t who can act on your behalf and ask the questions for you while you focus on being a new parent.
If you don’t want to use someone close to you, you can ask your birth coach or doula to do it, and some hospitals will provide a neutral party for you to speak to. If you think you or your child were harmed during labour, or you weren’t treated well, please don’t keep quiet.
File a complaint
Whether you’ve decided to get someone on your side to ask the hard question or you’re doing it yourself, you might want to seriously consider making a complaint.
If you’ve asked questions and things don’t add up or either of you suffered a serious injury, a formal complaint will often set in motion an investigation into what happened. For a lot of women, an answer is all they want and sometimes a busy group of staff can’t or won’t help. Making a complaint is a sure-fire way of getting your concerns addressed and this can sometimes lead to changes in procedure so no one else has to go through what you did.
Make a claim
If you’re sure your child has been injured during delivery and the explanation from a complaint is never going to cut it, you can decide to take legal action. For many, their reasons in doing so are financial as caring for a child with additional needs thanks to their birth injury can mean changes to not only your home, but your lifestyle too.
Most lawyers are happy for you to contact them to find out if making a claim is a possibility for you. As with most other legal matters, your case has to fall within certain lines or it won’t be successful which is not what you want if you’ve made the difficult step to begin a claim in the first place. Your Legal Friend, offers this advice for making a claim for birth injury –
- Make sure that a claim is something you really want to pursue. It can be a long, complicated process so ensure your motivations for doing so are enough to get you through
- Don’t sign anything that says you’re happy with their explanation of events or that will legally absolve them from wrongdoing
- Write down everything you remember about what happened and ask anyone present to do the same
- Keep records of all expenses such as those incurred by extra hospital visits, home adaptions and time off work
- Contact a lawyer within three years of the event