How Frequently Do Birth Injuries Happen in Portland, Oregon?

Are You Aware of the Prevalence of Birth Injuries in Portland, Oregon?

Every year, numerous families are affected by the occurrence of birth injuries during childbirth. Understanding the frequency and causes of these injuries in Portland can help expectant parents make informed decisions about their childbirth options.

What Constitutes a Birth Injury?

A birth injury refers to any physical harm suffered by a newborn before, during, or shortly after the birthing process. Minor injuries are expected during the time of birth and often heal without treatment, but severe cases may result in lifelong disabilities. [1]

Unlike birth defects, which are caused by genetic or environmental factors and develop during pregnancy, birth injuries occur as a result of complications during labor and delivery.

Seven babies out of every 1,000 deliveries are born with injuries nationally. [2]

What Constitutes a Birth Injury?

Factors That Contribute to the Occurrence of Birth Injuries

Several factors can contribute to the occurrence of birth injuries. These factors can vary depending on the specific circumstances of each birth, but some common contributors include:

  • Fetal Distress: When the baby experiences distress during labor, such as a decrease in heart rate (fetal bradycardia) or inadequate oxygen supply (hypoxia), there is an increased risk of injuries due to potential oxygen deprivation.
  • Instrumental Delivery: The use of forceps or vacuum extractors during delivery increases the risk of injuries, such as facial nerve injuries, cephalohematoma, or intracranial hemorrhage, due to the application of external force to assist in the baby’s birth.
  • Large Baby Size (Macrosomia): Babies born weighing more than 8 pounds 13 ounces (or 4,000 grams) are considered macrosomic and may have a higher risk of birth injuries, particularly shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery.
  • Low Birth Weight: Low birth weight can increase the risk of injuries due to factors such as underdeveloped organs and fragile bone structure.

    They may be more susceptible to conditions like intracranial hemorrhage or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which can result from complications during labor or delivery.

According to Oregon state’s birth data, approximately 70 babies were born in Multnomah County with a low birth weight of less than 1500 grams. [4]

Factors That Contribute to the Occurrence of Birth Injuries
  • Malpresentation: In cases where the baby is not positioned optimally for delivery (such as breech presentation or transverse lie), the risk of injuries increases. Malpresentation can lead to complications during delivery, potentially causing birth injuries.
  • Maternal Pelvic Anatomy: The shape and size of the mother’s pelvis can impact the ease of delivery. Pelvic abnormalities or a narrow pelvis may increase the risk of birth injuries, especially if the baby’s size is relatively large.
  • Maternal Health Conditions: Certain maternal health conditions, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or infections during pregnancy, can increase the risk of birth injuries in the baby.

Maternal complications contribute to 9.2% of infant deaths in Oregon. [3]

  • Medical Mistakes or Negligence: Mistakes made by healthcare providers during prenatal care, labor, or delivery can contribute to injuries. Examples include failure to monitor the baby’s condition adequately, improper use of medical equipment, or delayed emergency responses.
  • Multiple Gestation: Pregnancy with twins or higher-order multiples increases the risk of birth injuries due to potential complications such as preterm birth, malpresentation, or entanglement of the umbilical cords.
  • Preterm Birth: Preterm birth can lead to birth injuries due to the infant’s underdeveloped organs and fragile physical state, making them more susceptible to harm during delivery. The premature baby’s smaller size and fragile skin can increase the risk of birth trauma and complications, such as brain injuries or bone fractures.

The preterm birth rate in Oregon was 8.7% in 2022, which was lower than the 8.9% in 2021. [3]

  • Prolonged or Difficult Labor: Long or difficult labors increase the likelihood of birth injuries due to the prolonged pressure the baby experiences moving through the birth canal. It can result in conditions like brachial plexus injuries, other brain injuries, or fractures.

According to a study conducted between 2019 and 2021, the leading cause of infant mortality in Oregon is birth defects, accounting for 21.6% of cases. [3]

Prolonged or Difficult Labor

Common Types of Birth Injuries

Birth injuries can have long-term impacts on newborns, including developmental delays, physical disabilities, cognitive impairments, and emotional challenges. Children may require intensive therapy, medical interventions, and support to address the consequences of these injuries.

Some common birth injuries include:

  • Brachial Plexus Injuries: Damage to the network of nerves that control movement and sensation in the arms and hands. One common type of brachial plexus injury is Erb’s palsy, which can occur when there is excessive stretching of the baby’s neck during delivery.
  • Caput Succedaneum: A condition characterized by swelling of the soft tissues of the baby’s scalp. It often occurs as a result of pressure on the baby’s head during delivery and resolves within a few days without treatment.
  • Cephalohematoma: A collection of blood between the baby’s skull and the periosteum (the membrane covering the bones) that occurs as a result of trauma during delivery. Cephalohematoma usually resolves on its own over several weeks or months.
  • Cerebral Palsy: A group of neurological disorders that affect movement, muscle tone, and posture. Cerebral palsy can be caused by brain damage that occurs before, during, or shortly after birth. It may result from a lack of oxygen or trauma during labor and delivery.
  • Facial Nerve Injuries: These injuries can occur when pressure is applied to the baby’s face during delivery, leading to temporary or permanent paralysis of the facial muscles.
  • Fractures: Fractures or broken bones, particularly of the clavicle or collarbone, can occur during difficult or prolonged deliveries. These fractures may heal on their own with proper medical care.
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage: It refers to bleeding that occurs inside the baby’s skull. It can be caused by trauma during delivery or underlying medical conditions. Intracranial hemorrhage can range from mild to severe and may require medical intervention.
  • Perinatal Asphyxia: A common type of birth injury that occurs when the baby’s brain does not receive enough oxygen during birth. Perinatal asphyxia can result in long-term neurological damage and developmental delays if not promptly treated.
Common Types of Birth Injuries

Medical Malpractice in Birth Injury Cases in Portland, Oregon

Medical malpractice in birth injury cases, refers to instances where medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, or midwives, fail to meet the standard of care expected in the delivery and care of newborn babies and their mothers. Injuries can arise from a variety of situations, including negligence during prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postnatal care.

In Portland, to prove medical malpractice in an injury case, you (the injured party or their legal representative) must demonstrate that the healthcare provider violated the standard of care, which directly resulted in injury.

The standard of care refers to the level of care and skill that a reasonably competent healthcare provider would provide under similar circumstances. It may vary depending on the mother’s medical history, the baby’s health, and the birth circumstances.

You can file a birth injury claim in Portland to pursue financial recovery for damages such as medical bills, ongoing care, emotional distress, and loss of future earnings. The process will be smoother if you seek legal representation from birth injury attorneys experienced in medical malpractice law in Oregon.

Schedule a free consultation with Goldberg & Loren’s experienced birth injury lawyers today.


Common birth injuries in Portland include brachial plexus injuries, cerebral palsy, and fractures. Each case can vary widely in severity and impact on the child's health and well-being.

Risk factors can include the baby's size and position, prolonged labor, the mother's age, maternal health conditions, and the use of certain medical interventions during the birth process.

In Portland, Oregon, the Statute of Limitations for filing a medical malpractice claim for birth injuries is two years from the date the injury was or reasonably should have been discovered, or within five years from the date of the negligent act or omission, whichever comes first. However, there may be exceptions and nuances to this timeline.


[1] Center, B. I. J. (2023, November 19). Birth Injuries in Newborns | Get Information & Support. Child Birth Injuries.

[2] Types of Birth Injury – What Causes Birth Injuries? (2023, November 18). Cerebral Palsy Guide.

[3] 2023 March of Dimes Report Card for Oregon. (n.d.). March of Dimes. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from

[4] Oregon Birth Data. (n.d.). Oregon Health Authority. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from

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