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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Pediatric Brain-Related Injuries – Overview

Brain injuries sustained before or during birth can have a range of causes, symptoms, and outcomes. They often result in lifelong neurological problems. However, in many cases, diagnosing the problem early can help identify treatment options that may improve the prognosis and child’s quality of life as they develop.

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A brain injury at birth can result in conditions such as cerebral palsy; affecting about 1 in 323 children (according to the Centers for Disease Control), it is the most common childhood motor disability. Oxygen deprivation, also known as birth asphyxia, happens in nearly four of every 1,000 births that go to full term. It can lead to cerebral palsy and other disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is the starvation of oxygen to the brain, its effects, and consequences. Oxygen deprivation injuries include anoxia, birth asphyxia, perinatal asphyxia, and hypoxia.

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Birth-Related Brain Injuries Range in Severity

From trauma to infections, there are many complications that can lead to a brain injury in an infant. A mild injury can involve a fracture, mild bleeding, or a hematoma (buildup of blood outside of blood vessels). Moderate trauma includes oxygen deprivation, more significant fractures or bleeding, and subdural hemorrhage, but a severe injury with a major hemorrhage can put enough pressure on the brain to cause seizures and impede brain development.

How Do Brain Injuries Occur at Birth?

Blunt force trauma is generally a common cause of injury, but in infants is less common. However, forceps extraction has led to serious cranial injuries. A long labor can cause compression of the brain for an excessively long time. In a difficult labor, an infant can lose oxygen and suffer brain damage.

The signs of a brain injury at birth may be subtle. They often don’t show up for years. Evidence of a problem in a newborn include an abnormally large forehead, distorted facial features, an abnormal shape to the spine, and a small head. Functional symptoms include difficulty focusing the eyes, a stiff neck, and seizures. Before any developmental delays are noticed, one may notice the infant cries more than normal, has trouble sleeping, or doesn’t feed properly.

Proving an Injury Has Occurred

Most of the time, infant brain damage is diagnosed by assessing the symptoms and looking at MRI or CT scans of the head. These tests can reveal skull fractures, hemorrhages, and other problems. Electrical activity can be measured with an EEG, to accurately measure the strength of neurological communications.

The results of medical testing often determine the course of treatment. In conditions such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy, reducing body heat can limit the damage and disabilities that can result. Sometimes surgery is necessary, but other options include physical/occupational therapy, ventilation, medication, and rehabilitation. Prognoses vary depending on how severe the damage is and the promptness and effectiveness of treatments. Still, the potential for physical, mental, and intellectual disability is often uncertain, and parents are left to hope for the best.