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Risks of Delayed Delivery During Childbirth

For every 1,000 babies born in the US, six to eight of them experience birth injuries. Out of these, 28,000 are injured during or shortly after birth every year.

What is Delayed Birth (Delivery)?

A delayed birth is a birth that occurs when circumstances prevent a child from being delivered within the normal time frame. Labor and delivery vary, but with most first pregnancies, it takes roughly 12-14 hours.

Most of the time if medical intervention is provided, an infant may suffer mild conditions that will heal naturally. But delayed birth often results in more serious medical issues, especially birth related injuries and sometimes death.

Birth Injury vs. Birth Defect

A birth defect is a genetic disorder that inflicts your baby regardless of the delivery process. A birth defect can also be caused by non-DNA related factors for example taking certain medication and even drugs during pregnancy.

A birth injury on the other hand is a disability that a child suffers shortly before, during, or shortly after birth and is in most cases preventable. These injuries are particularly common during stressful/difficult deliveries or that lack proper medical attention.

Delayed Childbirth Risks

Usually, a baby’s brain is capable of withstanding temporary compression while in the birth canal. Likewise, the spinal cord and lower central nervous system can withstand this temporary compression. But if the compression lasts longer than it should like in the case of delayed delivery, an infant experiences birth trauma.

Not only that, but there are a number of other risks that may occur as a result of delay.The most common include:

Brain Damage

Brain damage has been labeled one of the leading causes of permanent disabilities or death in infants/ children by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can be caused by:

  • Blunt force trauma
  • Long labor/ delayed delivery
  • Oxygen deprivation

Brain damage can result in the following conditions:

Cerebral Palsy

In the US, this condition affects up to 500,000 people and although common, you wouldn’t want your child suffering from it. Cerebral palsy is defined as a disorder that affects the brain and causes motor deficiency. Brain damage leading to cerebral palsy can be a lifetime injury.


Birth injury malpractices are known to cause brain damage and they include:

  • Dropping and pulling of an infant
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Instrument injury
  • Labor lasting 18 hours and more

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Generally there are three kinds of cerebral palsy (Spastic, Athetoid, and Ataxic), although several classification systems exist today.

Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

There are a number of child developmental benchmarks could serve as early indicators of cerebral palsy. These signs cover:

  • Muscle tone
  • Movement, coordination, and control
  • Reflexes
  • Posture and balance
  • Motor function

Currently there is no cure for this condition, but certain procedures and treatments can make your baby more comfortable.


Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that is defined by:

  • Social interaction and developmental language impairments
  • Rigid, repetitive behaviors
  • Difficulty in learning communication skills

Because of the large spectrum of symptoms, autism is now referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and encompasses conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD) and disintegrative disorders.


For a long time, doctors thought genetics accounted for a whopping 99% of autism risk. However, studies have now revealed that birth injuries are the most common causes of autism. In fact 80% of children with autism experienced some kind of birth injury (delayed delivery, oxygen deprivation etc) during labor and delivery.


As is the case with cerebral palsy, there is no cure for autism. However, forms of behavior and communication treatment exist that your child may benefit from.

Spina bifida

Spina bifida is a birth condition that occurs as a result of the spine and spinal cord not forming properly or being damaged.


A birth injury malpractice during childbirth like over-stretching can cause damage, though this is usually on a low scale. However, if a doctor fails to diagnose spina bifida in time and also fails to inform the parents, it is considered a medical malpractice.

Although no factor is certain cause for this condition, other causes may include:

  • Folate deficiency
  • Family history
  • Certain medications taken during pregnancy like anti-seizure medication
  • Hyperthermia in the early weeks of pregnancy
  • Obesity and diabetes


The severity of this condition depends on type, size, location of injury, and the nature of the complications. Nonetheless, it can be categorized into:

  • Spina bifida occulta - mild form and usually hidden. Most people don’t even know they have it unless an imaging test is taken
  • Meningocele - characterized by a sac filled with fluid and although nerve damage is unlikely, later complications are possible
  • Myelomeningocele - most severe form and the spinal canal is open along several vertebrae


Signs of Spina bifida vary, but common symptoms may include:

  • No skin covering
  • Exposed spinal cord tissue
  • Weak legs
  • Seizures
  • Bowel issues
  • Curved spine, unusually shaped feet and hips

When detected early enough, this condition can be corrected by an operation, although it does not rectify 100% of the problem.

Umbilical Cord Prolapse

In approximately one in ten deliveries, umbilical cord compression (prolapse) occurs. Majority of these complications occur during long lasting labor causing decreased blood flow and oxygen to the baby.


If your baby is blocked in the birth canal with the cord for long due to delayed delivery, various other birth injuries can happen:

  • Variable heart deceleration
  • Respiratory acidosis
  • Fetal hypoxia
  • Brain damage
  • Treatment
  • Amnioinfusion
  • Increased oxygen supply to the mother
  • C-section

Because no physical sign of umbilical cord prolapse can be seen without the help of a doctor, failure to diagnose it is considered a malpractice.

Delayed Delivery and Medical Malpractice - What to Do

Welcoming your new baby should be a happy event. While there are certain risk factors associated with delayed delivery, modern medical practice should likely prevent it from occurring.

If you believe you or your baby were injured as a result of negligent prolonged labor, you can file a lawsuit with Pittsburgh’s top medical malpractice lawyers, Harry S. Cohen and Associates, upon your case review.

Delayed delivery complications are a multitude of different factors. Educate yourself beforehand for a safe delivery and healthy baby. But if unfortunately injuries happen, remember you are not alone.