Most Common Birth Complications

Happy Birthday! Unfortunately, not all birthdays are happy. Namely, the birthdays of infants who suffer from birth complications. For parents, finding out something’s wrong during delivery can turn a day meant for celebration into a day of intense stress, or even sadness. 

What are some of the most common birth complications? Keep reading to find out. 

Parents hold their newborn after delivery.

What are Birth Complications?

The term “birth complication” refers to a negative event that affects the mother or baby during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. You might hear your doctor refer to them as obstetric complications.

These events run the gamut from mild to severe. An example of a mild birth complication is when labor fails to progress. Uterine rupture is an example of a dangerous, severe birth complication.

Severe birth complications may lead to birth injuries. These are often lasting conditions that may affect a child throughout her lifetime. Some may also cause stillbirth or loss of life. But those cases are rare.

Examples of Birth Complications

Some of the most common birth complications are failure to progress, prolonged labor, and fetal distress. The following birth complications tend to have more severe consequences:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Premature labor and delivery
  • Perinatal asphyxia
  • Shoulder Dystocia
  • Chorioamnionitis
  • Abnormal fetal presentation (ex. Breech or posterior)
  • Placental abruption
  • Uterine Rupture
  • Umbilical cord knots
  • Umbilical cord prolapse

Let’s take a closer look at some of these dangerous birth complications:

Uterine Rupture

A uterine rupture is when a pregnant woman’s uterus tears. As we mentioned above, this is a severe complication. It’s also very rare. It occurs to less than 1 in 10,000 women with an unscarred uterus. The risk for women who have had a Cesarean section is a bit higher (ranging from 2 to 9 out of 1000 women). 

When a rupture happens, it happens suddenly and without warning. Amniotic fluid can leave the womb, and so can the baby. Both the mother’s and the baby’s lives are in danger. Doctors have only 10-30 minutes to act before brain damage sets in, because the rupture may cause oxygen deprivation. Doctors must deliver the baby via emergency C-section. 

Umbilical Cord Prolapse

The umbilical cord provides blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the baby while it grows in the womb. It should follow the baby out of the womb at birth. But during umbilical cord prolapse, the cord drops down before the baby during labor. 

This puts the baby in grave danger. The baby may compress the cord as it travels through the birth canal, cutting off the oxygen supply. It’s very rare for umbilical cord prolapse to happen. But it’s one of the birth complications with the highest mortality rates. 


Chorioamnionitis is an infection of the placenta and amniotic fluid. It can hinder the mother’s oxygen and nutrients from reaching the baby. It can also cause preterm labor and delivery, which leads to even more birth complications. 

Because it keeps oxygen from reaching the baby, chorioamnionitis can lead to brain injuries. One injury it can cause is cerebral palsy. 

Vaginal infections in the mother are the most common cause of chorioamnionitis. The amniotic fluid is more likely to become infected if the woman’s water breaks early. 

Perinatal asphyxia

Certain circumstances can keep a baby’s brain or organs from getting enough oxygen in pregnancy and delivery. The medical term for this is perinatal asphyxia. It’s also known as birth asphyxia or neonatal asphyxia. 

During birth asphyxia, a baby’s cells may stop functioning properly because of oxygen loss. It may result in permanent brain damage, or damage to other organs, such as the kidneys. 

Shoulder Dystocia

Sometimes a baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal during delivery. This birth complication is called shoulder dystocia. It’s a dangerous event because the baby can’t continue moving further down the canal. That can lead to oxygen deprivation. 

On the other hand, the maneuvers doctors use to free a baby’s shoulder can also be dangerous. They might pull on the baby using too much force. Excessive force can fracture the collar bones, or damage the brachial plexus nerves (nerves in the neck and shoulders). Brachial plexus injuries can lead to Erb’s palsy and other types of palsy.   

Placental Abruption

Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus wall. Since the placenta provides essential nutrients and oxygen to the baby, this is a serious birth complication. 

Placental abruption can increase the risk of a baby being born early. It may also affect the baby’s growth. Some babies don’t survive placental abruption. If the baby is full-term or close to it, doctors may order an emergency C-section. 

Birth complications caused this baby to stay in the NICU.

Legal Help for Birth Complications

Sometimes doctors mishandle birth complications and cause further injury to mothers and their children. If you believe this has happened to you, contact our birth injury lawyers today. We can help you get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding your child’s injury. You may be entitled to compensation. Find out what legal steps you can take to make your child’s life better.