Home / Blog / How Common Is It for Babies to Suffer Broken Bones During Birth?

A baby’s bones are very soft and pliable, so they can break easily during birth. Unfortunately, bone fractures are common throughout the United States. Around 15 out of 1,000 births result in clavicle fractures, which are common bone injuries among newborns. A humerus bone fracture is also a common long bone injury in newborns.

Medical treatment can heal these fractures over time, but the bills can quickly cause financial stress. A baby’s bone fracture can also lead to the possibility of a disability, affecting their childhood development and quality of life.

If you believe medical negligence played a role in your child’s injury, our compassionate Indiana birth injury attorneys at Wagner Reese can work with you to build a case.

How Do Bones Break During Childbirth?

Negligent action by a medical provider in the delivery room can endanger the baby, resulting in bone fractures that require medical care. Some factors that contribute to bone fractures in newborns include:

Incorrect Drug Administration

Doctors can medically induce labor using medications such as Pitocin to jumpstart the labor process. It is not uncommon to induce labor medically; 25.7% of births in 2018 were induced.

However, the FDA warns that Pitocin carries severe or life-threatening risks. If too much of the drug is given, it can overstimulate the uterus and cause strong or hypertonic contractions. Overstimulating the uterus as the baby moves through the birth canal can lead to the baby sustaining bone fractures.

Aggressive Labor Techniques

There may be a chance of a bone injury if the doctor pulls too hard on the child or places the baby in an unnatural position. Forceps or vacuum extractors may be needed to gently guide the baby’s head through the birth canal as the mother pushes.

However, the improper use of a vacuum extractor or forceps can exert too much pressure on the baby’s head, resulting in a skull fracture.

Failing to Recognize Signs of Breech Position

Babies rotate their heads down to face the birth canal in the final weeks to prepare for birth. During the last weeks of pregnancy, doctors examine the abdomen, perform a cervical exam, and conduct an ultrasound to confirm a potential breech birth. In addition, they must offer mothers the option of having the doctor turn the baby face down (external cephalic version) or going through a C-section.

Not providing safe delivery options when a breech birth is observed can constitute negligence. Likewise, it is negligent for a doctor not to recognize a breech birth during labor. As a result, the baby can become stuck in the birth canal and suffer shoulder dystocia, sustaining fractures in the clavicle and humerus bones.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Broken Bones in Babies

There are several signs that doctors look for when diagnosing a bone break in a newborn. During delivery, an audible cracking sound may come from a bone breaking. The baby may be in pain and can’t move their limb. This may cause them to cry excessively, and they may not be able to be soothed by breastfeeding or swaddling. There may also be swelling and redness around the site of the breakage.

If the doctor suspects a baby has a broken bone, they can order an X-ray or an ultrasound to confirm. They can also check the arm for grip strength, numbness, and paralysis. The doctor observes if the baby extends their arms when they check the baby’s Moro reflex (the startle response.)

How Long Does a Baby’s Bone Fracture Take to Heal?

Clavicle and humerus fractures in newborns can heal quickly without any long-term complications. Birth fractures usually heal within two weeks. The quick healing process occurs because of muscle contractions and tissue growth that help the bones reposition themselves. The shoulder of an injured baby may be immobilized during the healing process, so they must be lifted with extreme care.

In addition to a bone fracture, they can lose movement in their arms due to injury to the brachial plexus. This is a bundle of nerves in the upper spine that controls arm movements. A brachial plexus injury can cause weakness, numbness, and partial or complete paralysis of the arm. Mild cases of brachial plexus injuries can heal without medical intervention within 3 to 4 months of age.

What are the Lifelong Consequences of a Bone Fracture?

Severe brachial plexus injuries in children may require surgical intervention to repair nerve damage and help them regain function. However, they may need medical treatment that can last a lifetime. Physical therapy can help them improve their mobility, while assistive devices and possible corrective surgery can help them with their posture.

Get Legal Help After a Broken Bone Injury

Finding out about your baby’s broken bone and brachial plexus injury can be a devastating experience for you and your family. Our team of experienced birth injury lawyers at Wagner Reese can help you seek the compensation you need to help your baby and family recover.

We work with families across the United States to help them hold medical professionals liable for their negligence. Call our law firm today for a free consultation and let us help you ease the stress.