Brain injuries sustained during the birthing process can cause lifelong physical, cognitive, and developmental impairment in babies. Seeking prompt treatment for brain injuries at birth is key to preventing long-term complications. Learn more about the importance of prompt treatment and signs to look for in your child.
Brain Injuries During Childbirth
Brain damage is one of the most common types of birth injuries. Trauma to the brain before, during, or shortly after childbirth can cause irreversible damage.
Brain injuries during the birthing process can vary in severity from mild skull fractures to severe bleeding (hemorrhages) and permanent harm.
Though many cases of brain injuries do not have an exact cause, there are several acts of medical negligence that can lead to brain damage.
Ways medical professionals can cause brain damage during birth include:
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum delivery devices
- Not detecting a lack of fetal blood flow leading to stroke
- Not detecting or treating loss of oxygen (hypoxia)
- Not detecting or treating maternal high blood pressure
- Not treating bacterial infections such as meningitis
- Not performing a timely C-section (cesarean section)
- Pulling the child out of the birth canal with excessive force
If any of these events happen during a birth, a child has an increased risk of developing a brain injury.
Why Is Getting Prompt Treatment So Critical?
It is critical to get medical treatment as soon as possible if you suspect your child has a brain injury. Delaying treatment can have grave consequences such as lifelong disability or even death.
According to the Valley Baptist Health System, permanent damage can occur in a matter of minutes.
“The point to remember is that ‘time equals brain.’ A delay of even five or 10 minutes can make a big difference in a patient’s outcome. Every minute in delay to treatment leads to 2 million neurons dying.”
— Dr. Luis Gaitan, Medical Director of the Stroke Program at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville
Because traumatic brain injuries during birth can trigger a life or death situation, doctors need to act promptly. Generally, a doctor will examine your child to see if there are any physical signs of a brain injury such as an abnormally small head, large forehead, bruising, hematomas, and more.
If your doctor suspects a brain injury, they will then conduct imaging scans to assess the damage in the brain. These tests usually include an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan or a magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy.
From there, your doctor can see how badly the brain was damaged and create a treatment plan to prevent complications.
Signs of Brain Injuries in Children
Unfortunately, many signs of brain damage during the birthing process are not obvious right after birth. Since every brain injury is different, your child might not show immediate signs of an injury.
Because of this, it is key to know the symptoms of a brain injury, so you can spot the signs and get medical attention immediately.
Signs of a brain injury in newborns include:
- Abnormal spine, forehead, or head shape
- Arched back when crying
- Feeding difficulties
- Excessive drooling
- High-pitched cries
- Stiffness in the neck
- Too loose or too tight muscles
There are also signs to keep an eye out for when your child is older that may indicate they suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Signs of a brain injury in toddlers and children include:
- Extreme mood swings
- Balance and coordination issues
- Dazed look on face
- Difficulty completing daily tasks
- Intense, frequent headaches
- Limited muscle control
- Memory issues
- Walking issues
- Speech and language issues
- Vision issues
Get Help Finding Treatment
Although it is critical to get treatment as soon as you suspect your child suffered a brain injury, there is no way to reverse brain damage. Trauma to the brain during birth is often permanent.
However, there are treatment methods to manage symptoms and potentially prevent death in emergency situations.
If your child has a brain injury, they will stay in the hospital, so doctors can stabilize their blood flow and blood pressure to prevent more damage. If your child has a skull fracture, intracranial hemorrhage, or blood clots, surgery may be required as soon as possible to treat these conditions.
Over time, your child’s doctor may create a treatment plan including medications, assistive devices, surgeries, and several types of therapy (physical, speech, occupational, etc.) to manage any disabilities caused by the brain injury.
Not sure if your child has a brain injury? Our team can help. We have experienced and caring registered nurses on staff who can listen to your story and see what your child’s treatment options are. Contact us today.