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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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Risk Factors

An intracranial hemorrhage is one of the most serious types of birth injuries that may occur. An intracranial hemorrhage is also known as bleeding on the brain or a brain hemorrhage.

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While an injury can occur at any time and for many reasons, there are a number of risk factors that could increase the likelihood of injuries before or at birth. Some of these risk factors include:

Elk & Elk
  • Large baby
  • Instrument-assisted births
  • Breech births
  • Abnormal or excessive traction during delivery
  • Resuscitation

Large Baby

A newborn may be large for a number of reasons including when the mother has diabetes, kidney disease or obesity. A large newborn can cause a difficult birth. It is more likely to become lodged in the birth canal, requiring doctors to assist in the birth. Pulling the infant could create undue pressure on the baby’s head, causing head trauma. Women who are expecting large babies should consult with their doctor to discuss the decision to have a cesarean section. A c-section allows for a less traumatic birth experience for the infant and a reduced likelihood of injury.

Instrument-Assisted Births

Occasionally a doctor needs to use instruments to assist in the birth process. Forceps are often used to help pull an infant from the birth canal. Forceps must be used properly, or they could cause head or other trauma to the infant. Vacuum extraction is another method used to assist in delivery. As with forceps, a vacuum-assisted birth is riskier than a natural birth because it could cause harm.

Breech Births

Breech births are those where the child is presented in the incorrect position. Under normal circumstances, the child is facing with his head down. However, in a breech birth, the feet may present first, causing a very difficult and tricky birth. In this case, the doctor may try to turn the baby and will need to help the birth, which will be much more risky for the infant. When the baby is pulled, he can suffer injuries including those to the head if it becomes entrapped.

Excessive Traction during Delivery

A doctor may need to provide assistance during the birth for a number of reasons. When the baby is not being delivered as quickly as possible, there may be complications. For example, the baby could become entangled in the umbilical cord or could breathe in the fluid. Any delay may cause the doctor to use excessive traction to pull the infant free. If adequate care is not used, the baby could suffer serious injuries including head trauma.


In cases where the baby is not breathing on his own immediately following birth, resuscitation may be required. This can be a very serious medical emergency, and the doctors and nurses are all trying to save the life of the newborn. Unfortunately, performing lifesaving efforts can cause other complications. The child may need to be moved, and sometimes excessive force is used when providing urgent care.

Another cause of traumatic head injury to a newborn is being dropped. While it doesn’t happen often, it occurs occasionally. Immediate medical care needs to be provided to determine the extent of injuries so they can be quickly treated. Regardless of the reason, a traumatic brain injury must be quickly diagnosed so treatment can begin. The more quickly treatment begins, the better the chances are that the child will survive.

Reducing Risk Factors

The doctor should assess the baby’s risk factors before labor begins. If there are any situations that could be considered dangerous, the doctor must inform the parents and let them know of the potential problem. The doctor should be prepared to handle complications from a difficult birth by having a neonatal cooling unit ready should the need arise. A team of specialists must be on hand to assess the infant and provide an immediate diagnosis and treatment if necessary. In pregnancies where the newborn is large, the doctor should consider a c-section to prevent possible head trauma and other injuries. An intracranial hemorrhage can result in serious developmental disabilities for the child. Developmental disabilities may range from minor to serious and life-threatening. Some children will make a full recovery while others may need lifelong care and treatment as a result. It is important to remember that the extent of a disability may not be fully known until a child begins to miss important milestones in development.