Injuries At Birth

Every parent hopes their pregnancy will end with the birth of a healthy baby, with no complications arising.

However, problems during both pregnancy and the birthing procedure are more common than you think.

This can be an injury to the baby or even the mother herself.

Unfortunately, in some cases these complications could have been avoided.

Some of the most common medical negligence claims involving children are birth defects, Cerebral palsy and still births.

As a result of complications there are a considerable number of babies who are born with birth defects. Some birth defects are minor, whilst others can be life threatening. A birth defect is present from birth and can result in:

  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability

A child can have either or both possible disabilities or defects.

Most common birth defects

The list of abnormalities possible are extensive, however below accounts for the majority of all defects found present at birth:

  • Most common are defects of limbs, spinal cord or heart
  • Limb defects (arms and legs); missing or extra fingers or toes, club feet
  • Heart abnormalities; holes in the heart
  • Spinal cord abnormalities; spina bifida
  • Defects affecting the face such as cleft lip and pallet
  • There are also major chromosomal activities such as down syndrome

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Can they be detected?

Around 50% of all abnormalities can be detected with an ultrasound scan thanks to the continued development of ultrasound scanning equipment and training. If the scan is performed correctly, the sonographer can accurately detect up to 50% of all abnormalities; including Spina Bifida. Blood tests can also be used in conjunction with ultrasound scanning to detect other abnormalities but not all.


In what circumstances can I claim for a birth injury?

It is when a birth defect that should have been diagnosed prior to birth but goes undetected throughout the pregnancy that you should consult a solicitor as those handling the scans or the blood tests may have been medically negligent; those defects can go on undetected due to an inadequate ultrasound scan as a result of either the sonographers inaccuracy, inexperience or incompetence, or the misreading of blood tests. You can pursue a claim of this nature on the basis that had you been made aware of the defect, then you would have terminated the pregnancy. These cases are known as wrongful birth claims.


What do I need to prove?

To succeed in such a case you have to prove that the birth defect should have been detected prior to the baby's birth by proper testing, and that if it had been defective the pregnancy would have been terminated. This is often the case for serious birth defects.


What can I recover?

The compensation in these cases includes:

  • the extra costs of bringing up a child with a significant disability, which can include behavioural disabilities as well as physical.
  • Financial compensation for the disabled person and the family. Most children with birth defects require:
    • Professional care 
    • Occupational therapy 
    • Physiotherapy and other therapies for treatment

The argument is that the defect being diagnosed antenatally, the parents would have terminated the pregnancy and would not have been laboured with the additional costs of long term care for their child.

When else is a claim possible?

Other birth defects can be caused by failure to monitor the pregnancy and labour with due care for example:

  • Maternal diabetes
  • Brachial Plexus injuries
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Ventouse/forceps delivery
  • Congenital hip with dysplasia

In addition to the above injuries to the baby, the mother can suffer the following problems, this list is not exhaustive:

  • Second and third-degree tears
  • Preeclampsia
  • Placental abruption

If you believe you or your baby have suffered during the delivery of your baby but your injury is not listed above, please contact us on 0800 590 019 and we would be happy to discuss your individual circumstance, and offer some free no obligation advice as to how to proceed.

Still births

A still birth is the term to describe a baby, which has been born dead and has already reached 24 weeks of pregnancy. 24 weeks is used as an indicator as to the likelihood of the baby surviving should it be born early, while at 24 weeks the baby would require intensive care in hospital for a prolonged period of time, it is likely to survive.

If a baby dies prior to the 24 weeks, the loss of the baby is known as a miscarriage rather than a still birth. If a baby is born alive, and tragically passes away post birth, this would be recorded as an infant mortality.


Can I make a claim following a still birth?

If the still birth has been caused as a result of the substandard care during pregnancy or during the birth of your baby, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. Still birth compensation claims are very difficult claims to deal with, however you will require advice from a solicitor who has expertise in dealing with this specific type of claim.

If you would like to have a chat about your options or how we may be able to help you please contact a member of the team, complete our call back form or contact us directly at your local office.

Your Medical Negligence Team

Ruth Markham


Ruth is a former member of the Bar Council before cross qualifying as a solicitor. She joined BHP Law in March 2014 as an associate and was made head…

Tracy Farman


In January 2022 Tracy Farman joined BHP Law’s Personal Injury and Medical Negligence department, in Durham, after working for a solicitors practice…

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