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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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Learning More about Pediatric Brain Injuries

Finding out that your baby suffered a brain injury at birth is devastating to families. Infants with birth injuries require immediate diagnosis and treatment to achieve the best possible outcome.

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Parents and caregivers want to learn more about pediatric brain injuries, so they understand the details of how the injury occurred, how it is diagnosed, possible treatment options and what outcome to expect.

Causes of Birth Brain Injuries

Babies can experience an injury to the brain before, during or immediately following birth. They could occur during a difficult or prolonged labor where the delivery is delayed. When the baby is distressed, it is a serious medical emergency to ensure the baby does not lose oxygen.

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Brain injuries during birth may be mild, moderate or severe. Infants with mild injuries may recover fully with few long-term problems or may have some developmental delays. Those with moderate injuries could suffer impairments and developmental delays that could be more serious. Infants with severe injuries could have lifelong disabilities or cerebral palsy and possibly require ongoing care and treatment for their entire lives.

Pediatric Injuries at Birth

Pediatric birth injuries are often very serious. Some of the most common problems happen with there is a lack of oxygen to the brain (hypoxia) or reduced blood flow to the brain (ischemia). Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a condition that occurs when oxygen flow is decreased or reduced for more than a few minutes. A possible but less frequent cause of a brain injury at birth is a head trauma that causes a hemorrhage. This can occur when excess force is put on the infant’s head, sometimes due to the improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction assistance. It is important to know that a brain injury can occur without having a skin break or even a fracture of the skull. Therefore there may not be an immediate outward appearance on the head that indicates harm has taken place.


Immediate diagnosis of an infant’s injury is essential so that treatment can begin. If a baby suffered a lack of oxygen or an injury is suspected a neurological exam is needed. During the exam, the doctor will evaluate the baby’s primitive reflexes such as his response to specific stimuli. An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be done to determine brain activity. An MRI may also be done.


An infant brain injury should be diagnosed as quickly as possible so treatment may begin. This is particularly true when the injury is due to lack of oxygen. When the infant suffers reduced oxygen during birth, there are two stages of injury. To possibly minimize damage from the second stage, cooling therapy must be provided no later than 6 hours after birth. The treatment is provided in a neonatal intensive care unit and continues for up to 72 hours.

In some cases, such as when there is significant bleeding inside the head, surgery may be required. Other treatments may be done to minimize the symptoms. For example, infants may be given medications to reduce or prevent the incidence of seizures which can occur in some babies.


The prognosis for infants with brain injuries varies widely from child to child. Those with relatively minor injuries could recover with very few physical or cognitive problems while others could be severely disabled. Parents and caregivers must continue to communicate with doctors and other professionals to learn as much as possible about the treatment and care that is necessary for your child. One of the challenges parents face is that in mild to moderate cases the extent of damage may not immediately be known. It’s only when the child begins to miss important milestones that a more accurate prognosis can be made.