Signs of a possible birth injury

When a birth injury impacts a child’s well-being, the effects of the injury are not always immediately apparent. After parents bring the infant home, they may notice troubling signs that could indicate medical concerns.

Seek help from your child’s pediatrician if you notice any of these potential birth injury symptoms.

Musculoskeletal symptoms

Birth injuries may affect the bones and muscles. Signs of this type of trauma may include:

  • Unusual hand or arm positioning
  • A claw-like hand shape
  • Unexplained muscle spasms, looseness or stiffness
  • Weak reflexes and/or movement
  • Seeming to favor one side of the body

Health-related symptoms

Signs of illness can result from a birth injury. Examples of these types of symptoms include:

  • Vision changes
  • Hearing loss
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Inflamed sinuses
  • Low blood oxygen levels
  • Failure to thrive
  • Headaches

Behavioral symptoms

A child’s actions may provide a clue to an undiagnosed birth injury. Be aware of unusual behaviors such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Drooling
  • High-pitched drying
  • Grunting
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Arched back while crying
  • Trouble with eating, swallowing or sucking
  • Unexplained fussiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light

Developmental symptoms

Often, developmental problems resulting from a birth injury arise when a child is between one and two years old. Parents may notice:

  • Delayed motor skills
  • Issues with memory, problem solving and/or emotional control
  • Poor coordination
  • Struggles with eating, potty training and getting dressed
  • Loss of full use of the muscles
  • Trouble learning to walk
  • Speech-related issues
  • Missed developmental milestones

When you notice any of these unusual symptoms, talk to your child’s pediatrician. A birth injury may result from medical malpractice, which occurs when a health care provider fails to meet the expected level of care during labor and delivery. Families in Washington state have three years to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice starting on the initial injury discovery, but minors have three years to file suit starting on their 18th birthdays.