The physical pressures of labor and delivery can sometimes result in a birth injury, an injury that occurs during the birthing process. Reasons for a difficult birth and potential injury may include:
- Large babies (weight over eight pounds, 13 ounces)
- Premature birth (born before 37 weeks; premature babies are more fragile and susceptible to injury)
- Cephalopelvic disproportion (the baby's head is too big to fit through the mother's pelvis)
- Dystocia (a difficult labor or birth)
- Prolonged labor
- Abnormal birthing presentation (such as a breech)
Facial Nerve Paralysis
The baby has two facial nerves, one on each side of the head. It is the seventh cranial nerve and originates in the brain. These nerves branch out to the face, neck, salivary glands and the outer ear. They are what allow us to:
- Move our face (smile, frown, squint, wrinkle our nose and forehead)
- Secrete saliva
- Experience taste on the tip of the tongue
- Cough when something is placed in the ear
If the baby lacks this nerve connection to the face, the condition is very disfiguring because the child cannot close the eyes, loses muscle tone in the face, and cannot move the affected side. The baby can lose the ability to taste on the affected side. It can lead to problems with speech, emotional expressions, and chewing.
Cause of Facial Paralysis in Newborns
Between eight and 14 percent of all instances of facial paralysis in children are seen at birth. The rate of facial paralysis is 0.8 to 2.1 for every 1000 live births and 88 percent of these occur in instances of difficult labor.
Paralysis of the facial nerves can happen during fetal development. It can happen just before or at the time of delivery. Any swelling or pressure on the facial nerve can cause paralysis. Facial nerves can be paralyzed when a forceps (a tong-like tool) is used to deliver the baby because the instrument can put pressure on or even tear the facial nerve.
It is essential that a doctor's skill, training and experience are excellent for successfully delivering a baby using a forceps. The doctor needs to clearly understand his or her limits for doing a forceps delivery and heed those limits.
Compensation for Affected Infants and Families
Facial injuries, in particular facial paralysis, caused by improper use of forceps should be reimbursed by the responsible party or parties, whether that is the doctor, another person assisting the birth, or the hospital where the delivery was performed.
The consequences of facial paralysis can be devastating physically as well as socially and emotionally. If your baby was harmed during the birth process, you may be eligible for financial compensation. To learn more, contact a birth injury lawyer today.