Birth injuries and defects can be temporary or permanent. Sometimes symptoms are mild, while others cause lifelong debilitating effects, altering the course of a person’s life forever from the moment he or she is born. It’s also possible that the same injury can affect different babies in different ways.
Some families don’t even realize an injury occurred during birth until much later in the child’s life, often when he or she starts school.
It can be devastating to learn your child has been injured in birth, whether the effects were immediate or you didn’t suspect an injury until much later.
Brain-Related Birth Injuries
Many birth injuries affect the brain. This is in part because the brain is so fragile, especially in a newborn baby. If a baby is deprived of oxygen during birth, he or she can experience Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). The oxygen-starved brain can react in one of several ways, all of which can harm the baby.
For example, a newborn can experience brain ischemia because the blood is drained from the brain in response to deprivation of oxygen. The baby might experience a brain hemorrhage because there is excessive blood flowing to the brain. A baby can experience a seizure during birth or experience permanent damage and develop cerebral palsy, which is the number one birth injury.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of babies experience birth injuries that eventually lead to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP). CP is a neurological brain disorder that affects movement and muscle coordination. It can be caused by oxygen deprivation, stroke, or an infection in the baby or mother.
Though not every instance of CP is preventable, many are with proper preventative measures.
Doctors should monitor fetal distress during birth and act accordingly. They are also responsible for identifying and treating maternal infections, identifying and treating a prolapsed umbilical cord, and using tools properly during birth. When necessary, doctors should deliver the baby via emergency C-section to prevent birth injuries.
Birth Injuries Not Related to the Brain
Babies can also experience muscle-related injuries during birth. They are easier to diagnose than brain injuries because babies show limited movement or paralysis.
Muscle-related birth injuries can be caused by lacerations, bruises, or broken bones that occur during labor and delivery. Some of the most common muscle-related birth injuries include:
Infections that Cause Birth Injury
It’s possible for a baby to suffer a birth injury because his or her mother passed on an infection. Some of the most common infections passed from mother to baby include group B strep and meningitis.
In many cases, the infection is present in the birth canal without the mother even knowing it is present because there are no symptoms. It is a doctor’s responsibility to check for any infections that could be passed from mother to baby during birth.
Doctors are also responsible for educating pregnant women and ensuring they receive proper pre-natal care. Treating issues during pregnancy can prevent serious problems for the baby, including anemia, folic acid deficiency, and spina bifida.
Healthy Babies Injured during Delivery
Even a healthy baby can experience problems during delivery.
If tools are misused during delivery, it can result in serious injury to the baby. There might also be problems if medications are administered incorrectly, the infant is mishandled during or immediately following delivery or complications related to hypertension or stress.
Babies that experience Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN) have a difficult time breathing, which can increase heartbeat and trigger a heart murmur and other problems. PPHN can also be caused by the use of certain medications, including Celexa, Paxil, and Zoloft, during pregnancy.