While cesarean sections are often performed to prevent birth injuries, there is still a chance that the procedure can lead to fetal lacerations that can be as serious as the birth injury the C-section was scheduled to prevent.

While the percentage of births associated with fetal lacerations is estimated at 3 percent – both the National Institutes of Health and a study from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sassari in Sassari, Italy, (Ref. 1) offered similar estimates – the results can be devastating.

An increase in the rate of C-sections in the United States only increases the risk of fetal lacerations, and according to statistics from 2015, C-sections are increasing dramatically. (Ref. 2)

According to a story appearing in the medical magazine STAT, one in three babies in the United States are born by C-section, which is much higher than is perhaps medically necessary, but performed when readings on fetal monitors show any kind of abnormality as a precautionary measure.

And while a C-section can prevent certain birth injuries, especially when deliveries are high risk for serious problems, C-sections are associated with their own risks.

What Are Fetal Lacerations?

Fetal lacerations are unintended cuts or tears to an infant that occur when the surgical incision a doctor makes into the mother’s abdomen to extract the infant results in injury to the fetus as a result of negligence on the part of the doctor.

While there are certain safety protocols in place to prevent lacerations, including using blunt instruments and moving the uterine wall away from the fetus before making the incision, lacerations can occur.

Fetal lacerations are more common and more likely to occur if:

  • The mother is in active labor when the C-section is performed.
  • The amniotic sac containing the baby and the liquid that protected the baby in the womb has ruptured before the C-section is performed.
  • The C-section is performed as an emergency procedure.
  • An unqualified or inexperienced medical professional formed the C-section.
  • The doctor uses a low transverse uterine incision – a cut above the mother’s bikini line – that could lead to facial lacerations.

What Are the Risk Factors Associated with Fetal Lacerations?

While some lacerations are minor and can be repaired with a few stiches and antibiotics to prevent infections, others can be much more serious.

Potential problems associated with fetal lacerations include:

  • Erb’s Palsy. Erb’s Palsy is paralysis of the arm caused by the severing of some of the nerves of the brachial plexus, the bundle of nerves that control movement of the arm, wrist, hand and fingers.
  • Facial Nerve Paralysis. There are two facial nerves, one on each side of a baby’s head, with nerves that branch out to control the ability to move the face, salivate and taste. If a facial nerve is severed during a C-section, it can make it impossible for the baby to close its eyes, smile, express emotions through expression, taste, or chew.
  • Klumpke’s paralysis. Klumpke’s paralysis, also known as Klumpke’s palsy, is also a brachial plexus injury, but because of where the nerves are injured, it usually impacts the muscles of the forearm and hand.
  • Any laceration can result in scarring. If infection occurs, the scarring can be more severe.
  • There is a chance that an inexperienced surgeon can damage or sever the spinal cord during a C-section, depending on the position of the baby.
  • Bone fractures. Because fetal tissue and bone are both so delicate, a bone fracture is possible if the laceration is severe enough.

A study from the Patient Safety Authority, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, found that 20 percent of lacerations impact the baby’s head, face and dear, 20 percent are below the waste, impacting the infant’s legs, buttocks and angles, and 10 percent impact the baby’s chest. (Ref. 3)

What Should I Do If My Baby Suffered a Fetal Laceration?

If your baby suffered a birth injury due to a medical mistake such as a laceration during a cesarean section, you may have questions about what happened and what your options are as a result.

As a patient, you have a right to expect that medical professionals are qualified to perform procedures such as a cesarean section with patient safety at the forefront of their mind. If they fail to meet a standard of care, it’s important that they are held accountable.

Because lacerations are almost always the result of medical negligence, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney to determine what happened and who is at fault so you can protect the rights of both you and your baby.

The right attorney can examine medical records to determine what caused your child’s injury, and then either negotiate with an insurance company or take your case to trial where a jury can hear expert testimony and determine fair compensation to cover the costs of your baby’s medical care.

If you have questions about your case, please call our offices today. Your consultation is free, and you won’t pay any fees until we successfully settle your case.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15547541
  2. https://www.statnews.com/2015/12/01/cesarean-section-childbirth/
  3. http://patientsafety.pa.gov/ADVISORIES/Pages/200412_09.aspx