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Newborn Head Injury

How Injuries Happen During Birth

The birth process is a stressful event, both for the mother and the baby. Sometimes, either the birth canal is too small, or the baby's head is too large. This causes a difficult delivery, during which some damage may occur to the newborn.

Signs of Newborn Head Injury and Their Causes

Position of the baby in the birth canal can be a sign of complications. The extra time needed to deal with these complications can lead to oxygen deprivation. The process of repositioning the newborn so that it can exit the birth canal head first can also injure the baby. Some problems of position of the baby include:

  • Breech birth: When baby is positioned buttocks first instead of head first, the baby must be turned so it can be delivered head first or perhaps a cesarean section may need to be performed. In being repositioned, the baby may be damaged.
  • Shoulder dystocia: If the baby's shoulder is caught behind the pubic bone preventing its exit from the birth canal, the baby needs to be repositioned and maneuvered to exit properly. Damage can be done to the nerves in the shoulder and arm. In addition, if it takes too long to deliver the infant, it may suffer oxygen deprivation.

Use of forceps or vacuum evacuation can sometimes result in injuries to the baby. Sometimes instruments are used to help deliver the baby. The doctor needs to be especially proficient in handling these instruments and performing these techniques. The doctor must also know his or her limitations before beginning the procedure. The baby's head and skull can be bruised or worse when these complex procedures are not done correctly.

Other complications can include:

  • Cephalohematoma: This is the accumulation of blood below the covering of one of the skull bones. Cephalohematoma may increase in size at first, after birth. This problem does not need to be treated and resolves on its own after a few weeks to months.
  • Fracture of a skull bone: This occurs only rarely, and only if the fracture forms an indentation does it need treatment.
  • Bleeding in the brain: Called intracranial hemorrhage, this condition occurs because of a ruptured blood vessel in the skull. Deformity of the skull bones during delivery can cause this condition. This happens most frequently in premature newborns. The condition is caused by either too little blood flow to the brain (ischemia) or too little oxygen in the blood (hypoxia). Most of the time, bleeding in the brain causes no symptoms, but when it does occur, the newborn may be sluggish, feed poorly and/or have seizures.
  • Nerve injury: Facial nerves may be injured during a forceps delivery or the when fetus' head is lying against the mother's pelvis. This can result in an asymmetric shape of the face, which usually disappears during the first few weeks after delivery.
  • Skin and Soft Tissue Injuries: When the baby is delivered face first, or the face is pressured during contractions, swelling and bruising may occur. This can be seen around the orbits of the eyes and on the face. Treatment is not usually necessary.

Birth Injuries and Negligence

Often, the delivery team cannot prevent injuries to the newborn's head, but when the injury is caused by negligence, those persons responsible for the injury can be held responsible. If you believe your infant's injury was caused by negligence, please contact our birth injury lawyers to find out if you have a claim.

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