Labor and Delivery Complications and Cerebral Palsy

Birth Injury, Causes of Cerebral Palsy

rusted danger sign with pregnant woman in background

Labor and delivery complications can have a long-term impact on the lives of both the child and mother. Many complications can impact the infant’s ability to obtain oxygen in the womb, depriving the brain of adequate oxygen supplies and possibly damaging it. If brain damage occurs during labor and delivery, it can cause long-term impairments and disability, including CP.

What Are Labor and Delivery Complications?

Labor and delivery complications include any problem occurring during the process of labor and delivery that places the baby or mother at risk. Labor and delivery complications can have serious repercussions, resulting in possible injuries to the mother and potentially brain damage for the baby, leading to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.

Symptoms of Labor and Delivery Complications

Some of the symptoms of a labor and delivery complication can include:

  • Lump on the head
  • Bruising
  • Unexplained listlessness
  • Tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Jerky or uncontrolled movements
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Trouble with balance and coordination
  • Excessive fussiness or discomfort

Types of Labor and Delivery Complications

There are many different complications that can occur during labor and delivery, including:


Cesarean sections are becoming an increasingly common procedure. Regardless of whether the C-section was scheduled in advance or performed as an emergency, if a C-section is delayed for too long and the infant is in distress, long-term complications can follow, including debilitating brain damage.

Vacuum Assist

In a vacuum extraction, a doctor uses a vacuum and suction on the baby’s head to help guide it through the birth canal. However, incorrect placement of the cup can cause bleeding within the skull. Pressure from the vacuum extractor could also bruise the baby’s brain tissue or stretch or tear the blood vessels and brain tissue, potentially causing CP.

Mismanagement of Labor

While doctors and nurses are highly trained to provide the best care possible to mothers during delivery, sometimes miscommunication, mistakes or even negligence can occur.

Cord Around Neck

If a baby’s cord becomes wrapped around its neck, it can cut off its oxygen supply partially or completely. If oxygen is cut off from the brain for too long, it can cause long-term brain damage and disability, including CP.

Fetal Position

Certain fetal positions can make delivery more challenging and potentially create situations where the infant is deprived of oxygen for extended periods of time, which can cause CP.


Sometimes doctors use forceps to help guide the infant through the birth canal. However, the use of forceps can sometimes cause damage to the cranial nerves and even lead to skull fractures, which could cause long-term complications such as CP.

Improper Fetal Heart Monitoring

While fetal monitoring is designed to help doctors and nurses monitor an infant inside the uterus, they sometimes still fail to take appropriate action, even when the baby is experiencing signs of distress. The lack of action can result from miscommunication, but it may also occur if a nurse employs other tactics before alerting the doctor. If an infant is left in distress for too long, it can potentially suffer from brain damage that could lead to a condition like CP.

Uterine Rupture

A uterine rupture is a tear in the uterine wall. This type of injury usually occurs at the site of scar tissue from a previous C-section. If there is a uterine rupture, the baby can lose its placental connection to oxygen and blood, depriving the brain of adequate amounts of oxygen and potentially leading to long-term brain damage, including conditions like CP.

Placental Abruption

Placental abruption occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates from the wall of the uterus before delivery. While this condition is extremely uncommon, it can deprive the infant of oxygen, as the placenta is responsible for nourishing the growing infant. Oxygen deprivation can lead to brain damage, which may itself cause CP.


Pitocin is the synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin, which is naturally produced during labor and delivery. Medical practitioners frequently use Pitocin to speed up or induce labor. If it’s used improperly or if doctors misread or ignore the signs of fetal distress, however, it can lead to preventable birth injuries.

How Do Labor and Delivery Complications Lead to CP?

Labor and delivery complications can impact the flow of blood to the brain or can cause brain damage. If this occurs, it increases the likelihood that the child will develop CP in the first few months or years of their life.


One of the most important things an expectant mother can do to reduce the likelihood of a labor and delivery complication is to make and keep regular appointments while pregnant. This can help the doctor more easily screen for complications and take steps to prevent any possible complications. In addition, make sure that the doctor you choose is highly experienced to reduce the likelihood of complications related to medical mistakes and inexperience.

If you suspect that your child’s CP was caused by the negligence or medical mistake of a provider during labor and delivery, you may have the right to hold them liable. Contact the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs for a free review of your case.



Reviewed by:
Trish Fletcher, MS, BSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, ALNC
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner | Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant

Tricia is a dedicated, focused, Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Her strong clinical and critical thinking skills, paired with expertise caring for neonates in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensures meticulous medical records review. READ FULL BIO

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