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Birth Injury & Medical Malpractice Glossary of Terms


  • Asphyxia: A condition that occurs when the body is deprived of oxygen.


  • Bilirubin: An orange-yellow substance that forms in the liver by the normal breakdown of red blood cells.
  • Birth Injury: An injury or damage that occurs to a baby before, during, or immediately after labor and delivery.
  • Brachial Plexus: A network of nerves that originates in the neck and extends through the shoulder and down into the arm, forearm, and hand.
  • Brain Cooling: Also referred to as therapeutic hypothermia, a treatment method to slow and stop brain damage in an infant by lowering the temperature of the brain.
  • Breech Presentation: A position of the fetus where the feet or buttocks appear first during birth, as opposed to the head.


  • Cephalohematoma: Bleeding between the skull and the periosteum, the membrane that covers the outer surface of the skull.
  • Cerebral Palsy: A term used to describe a group of neurological disorders caused by brain damage before or at birth, characterized by impaired muscle coordination and other disabilities.
  • Compensation: Money awarded to a person to make up for a loss, injury, or suffering.
  • Complication: In childbirth, a potentially hazardous situation that arises that is out of the ordinary and may present certain challenges. Shoulder dystocia is an example.


  • Defendant: In a civil lawsuit, a defendant is the person or entity being sued in court. In a birth injury lawsuit, this may be a medical professional or facility, and/or their insurance provider.


  • Eclampsia: A condition characterized by convulsions during pregnancy, caused by high blood pressure and often followed by coma. Eclampsia is potentially deadly for mother and baby.
  • Erb’s Palsy: A condition caused by damage to the brachial plexus nerves, which extend from the neck through the shoulder and into the arm. Erb’s palsy is characterized by paralysis in the affected arm.



  • Jaundice: A relatively common condition in newborns, characterized by a yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by excess bilirubin in the blood.


  • Klumpke’s Palsy: Caused by damage to the brachial plexus nerves, a type of paralysis that affects the forearm, wrist, and hand.
  • Kernicterus: A disorder caused by severe jaundice and extremely high levels of bilirubin in the blood, leading to brain damage and possibly cerebral palsy, mental retardation, hearing loss, and vision problems.


  • Macrosomia: A condition where a fetus is significantly larger than average, typically with a birth weight of 8 pounds 13 ounces or more.
  • Medical Malpractice: Any act or failure to act that is a deviation from accepted medical practices and causes injury to a patient.


  • Neonatal: Of or having to do with newborn children.


  • Perinatal: Of or having to do with the period around childbirth, including a few weeks before or after birth.
  • Plaintiff: A person who brings a case against another person or entity in court. In a birth injury case, the plaintiff may be the child or the child’s representative.
  • Preeclampsia: A condition that occurs only during pregnancy and is characterized by high blood pressure. It is a serious and potentially fatal condition that requires immediate treatment.


  • Shoulder Dystocia: A type of labor complication where the newborn’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. Significant maneuvering may be required to dislodge and deliver the shoulder.
  • Statute of Limitations: A law that limits the amount of time one has to bring legal action in court.
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