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How Brain Injuries Occur During Birth

Closeup of a newborn baby holding mother's finger.

Before, during, and shortly after birth, a baby's developing brain is incredibly vulnerable. Brain injuries sustained during pregnancy or delivery can have life-altering consequences. Unfortunately, medical negligence is too often the cause.

If your child suffered life-altering brain damage, we can help

We're participating in Brain Injury Awareness Month this March because we've seen over and over again the life-altering consequences of brain injuries in the most vulnerable among us. If you suspect your child may have sustained a brain injury before, during, or shortly after birth, the Lancione Law Firm is ready to help.

How do brain injuries happen during birth?

There are two general categories of brain injury, either of which can occur as a birth injury. An acquired brain injury (ABI) is brain damage caused by internal factors such as lack of oxygen or infection, whereas a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by external force such as blunt force trauma.

There are several ways acquired brain injuries can occur during labor and delivery or shortly after birth, including:

  • Hypoxia: lack of oxygen to the brain is the most common cause of brain injuries in newborns. If the baby does not get enough oxygen during labor and delivery, serious complications can ensue, including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).
  • Untreated jaundice: jaundice is caused by a buildup of a chemical called bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia). If left untreated, this buildup can cause kernicterus, a rare but serious complication that damages the parts of the brain responsible for movement and hearing.
  • Infection: various types of infections, such as rubella, toxoplasmosis, and intrauterine infections, can be passed from the mother's body to the baby's. An infection can cause meningitis, which is swelling of the lining of the brain, leading to brain damage or spinal cord damage.

Newborns can also sustain traumatic brain injuries, often due to birth trauma during labor and delivery. Misuse of forceps and vacuum extractors can cause TBI, as can pressure on the head from the pelvic bone or the birth canal.

Signs of brain injuries in newborns

Brain injuries in newborns can be difficult to detect. It's important to pay attention to signs of brain damage because immediate intervention can make a dramatic difference. Some warning signs include:

  • Visible injuries to the head
  • Arched back while crying
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Neck stiffness
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Overly loose or stiff muscles
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Excessive drooling
  • High-pitched crying

If something seems wrong, get your child medical attention as soon as possible. Again, brain damage can have dramatic effects on a baby's development and long-term quality of life. The sooner you get the proper medical interventions, the better the prognosis. It's also important to document your child's injuries to protect their legal rights.

The role of medical malpractice in newborn brain injuries

Protecting the baby's brain should be a top priority for doctors and medical professionals involved in labor and delivery. Unfortunately, too many children suffer because of medical negligence. Some of the ways medical malpractice can lead to brain injuries include:

  • Failure to monitor the baby's heart rate to ensure the brain is getting enough oxygen
  • Failure to properly diagnose and treat an infection
  • Failure to properly treat jaundice
  • Medication errors during labor and delivery
  • Misuse of forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Delayed c-section
  • Delivering vaginally when a c-section is medically indicated
  • Failure to administer head cooling or whole body cooling when medically indicated

Contact an experienced birth injury attorney today

When doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals fail to protect the most vulnerable among us from life-altering injuries, we hold them accountable. If you suspect your child sustained brain damage due to medical negligence, give us a call or contact us online for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. We are here to help.

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