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

Learn More

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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There are numerous causes for infant brain injuries and their effects. A lack of oxygen is the most common reason and occurs because a newborn gets stuck in the birth canal, their airways are blocked, or the umbilical cord becomes twisted or knotted, or wrapped around the baby’s neck. If oxygen is cut off, brain damage can begin to take place within seconds.

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Cerebral palsy is often caused by oxygen deprivation, but can also occur because of brain malformations. Abnormalities in prenatal neuron migration, lack of insulation for developing nerve fibers in a developing fetus, and birth injuries that cause blood vessels to rupture (starving the brain of oxygen) can trigger conditions such as cerebral palsy. Trauma, asphyxia, and infections can also disrupt the connections between brain cells, which cause neurological deficiencies to present.

Jaundice can lead to major brain damage in babies if it is not treated, as can a variety of infections mentioned previously. A baby with jaundice can develop kernicterus or abnormally high levels of a yellow pigment called bilirubin. In the first stage, babies are lethargic, and swallowing or sucking are difficult. The condition progresses into seizures, high-pitched screaming, and a protruding soft spot on the skull. Hearing loss, muscle rigidity, and death are possible in the third stage of kernicterus.

The signs of jaundice or any condition that can affect the infant's brain must, therefore, be taken very seriously. Early intervention can save a baby’s life and save them from permanent impairment.

Other Infant Brain Injury Causes

Elk & Elk

In an infant, expectations aren’t very high in terms of what they’re expected to do. A birth injury to the brain, therefore, may be mild and its effects on how a child will later meet social expectations won’t be known for some time. Contrary to what was believed in the past, brain injuries can be more devastating to developing brains than in adults. On top of that, impairments may not be immediately evident until much later, when there are higher expectations. Delays in symptoms mean potentially effective treatments aren’t administered in time.

A doctor using forceps or other tools the wrong way is just one cause for injury. Bumping against the pelvis can injure a newborn enough to cause neurological damage. Prolonged labor increases the likelihood of a twist or push that cuts off oxygen or otherwise injures the fragile skull and brain.

The cause of injury, however, is not always obvious. During a long labor, a baby’s glucose levels can fall. These should be monitored throughout labor. If glucose can be restored, brain damage can be avoided. The takeaway is that physicians should closely monitor a baby’s health during and immediately after birth. Doing so enables them to identify any causes of brain injury during birth and mitigate them right away to prevent or limit the impacts.