Mother holding newborn

It was a long few days, but you’re finally home with your new baby. You’re ecstatic to meet this new person and watch them grow. As days turn to weeks, you start to suspect something’s wrong. Your baby’s reactions aren’t what you expected, but you don’t see anything physically wrong with them.

Each year, nearly 8,000 new parents experience this pain. They’re not sure what harmed their baby or what to do about it. To help parents understand these conditions, we’ve put together this guide to latent birth injuries.

What is a Latent Birth Injury?

Physical birth injuries (like forceps marks or a brachial plexus injury) are immediately noticeable. Other injuries, particularly those impacting the baby’s brain will be difficult to recognize until your baby grows older and displays cognitive issues.

Latent birth injuries usually take years to recognize as it can be difficult to distinguish between delayed developmental milestones and cognitive impairment. To determine if your baby has a latent birth injury, you need to know the causes.

What Causes Latent Birth Injuries

Latent birth injuries usually occur when the baby is cut off from oxygen during delivery. Make an effort to stay informed at every step of the way in the delivery room so you can identify early warning signs.

Some of the most common causes of latent birth injuries include:

  • High Blood Pressure: If the medical team doesn’t keep the mother’s vitals within a healthy range, the baby may not get the blood (and oxygen) they need.

  • Compressed Cord: Picture a water hose. If you pinch the hose, the water supply is cut off. It’s the same for an umbilical cord. A compressed cord cuts a baby off from oxygen, which can cause brain damage if not treated immediately.

  • Placental Abruption: In some rare cases, the placenta detaches from the uterus. This reduces the baby’s oxygen supply and requires immediate attention.

  • Delayed C-Section: If a baby can’t fit through the birth canal or if labor has come to a halt, doctors will have to perform an emergency C-section. The longer they wait to make the call, the longer the baby is cut off from oxygen, which increases the risk of brain damage.

These are just a few examples. If your baby had complications during the delivery process and exhibits signs and symptoms, they might suffer from a latent birth injury.

What are the Signs?

Every brain injury manifests differently. However, you can identify early warning signs in your baby if they delay reaching critical developmental milestones or if they miss them altogether.

It’s important to keep a level head and remember that every child develops differently. One delayed milestone isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. That said, an altogether missed milestone is a cause for immediate alarm.

Below are some crucial developmental milestones and when your baby should reach them. If your child displays more than one of these signs, you should talk to your pediatrician immediately.

  • No Reactions: Your baby should react to bright lights and loud noises as early as week old. If they don’t, seek help immediately.

  • No Emotions: If your baby doesn’t smile or laugh, it could be a cause for concern. If your baby always cries, contact your pediatrician immediately.

  • No Grasping: Your baby should grasp and manipulate objects by around 12-months. If this step is delayed, give your baby some more time.

  • No Standing: Most babies learn to walk by 15-months. That said, if your baby can’t stand by 15-months, you should talk to your doctor.

  • No Talking: Babies babble as early as a few months old. However, if your baby can’t form words by 16-months, it may be a sign of a latent birth injury.

What Can Parents Do?

A latent birth injury often represents a lifetime of struggle. There’s no way to determine the extent of the injury until your child is fully grown.

Every state has a different time limit for filing a birth injury claim. New Mexico is especially tight on its rules. While other states allow parents to file a claim until the child’s 7-9 birthday, New Mexico parents have until their child’s 3rd birthday to notice a latent injury and file a claim. If your child is more than 3-years-old, you should contact an attorney to explore your options.

Because New Mexico has a shorter statute of limitations for birth injuries, you should take extra precautions to notice and document signs of latent birth injuries as they appear.

If you suspect your baby was impacted by a latent birth injury, you should consult an attorney immediately and start building your case for justice.

If your family was impacted by a latent birth injury, we are here for you. If you’d like an experienced Albuquerque medical malpractice attorney from James Wood Law to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (505) 906-6774.

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