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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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Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

In many deliveries, it is normal for a newborn baby to have a tiny amount of swelling and bruising of the head. Typically, this is due to the trauma that is exerted as the baby is pushed through the birth canal. In most cases, the symptoms disappear within a couple of days, and no medical intervention is needed.

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However, there are times when complications may arise during the labor and delivery that result in a more serious head trauma and hemorrhaging. This can include situations such as:

  • A prolonged labor
  • The baby is too big for the gestational age
  • The baby’s head does not fit through the pelvis easily
  • The baby is breech
Elk & Elk

In the above types of cases, it is important for healthcare professionals to monitor the infant for fetal distress and give new mothers information to allow them to provide informed consent should a C-Section be necessary. If distress does occur and conventional birth methods are unsuccessful, an emergency C-Section is necessary to minimize the risk of brain injuries and potential subarachnoid hemorrhaging.

Severe head trauma and bleeding in newborn babies can also occur from a medical intervention that happens during delivery, especially in cases of delivery room errors. The incorrect use of forceps and vacuum extractions are well-known causes of hemorrhages and that risk leading to permanent brain damage.

No mother wants her baby to suffer, so it is important to have the correct knowledge in terms of treatment options, prognosis, and related conditions.

What Is a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage?

A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when there is bleeding into the subarachnoid space – the area that lies between the brain and the tissues that cover it. It is within the subarachnoid space that cerebrospinal fluid circulates and protects the brain from injury. A hemorrhage in the subarachnoid space can lead to paralysis, brain damage, and other long-lasting prognoses.

What Causes an Infant Brain Hemorrhage?

Brain hemorrhages can occur to any person at any time, and typical causes include:

  • Aneurysm
  • Head trauma
  • Abnormalities of blood vessels
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood disorders
  • Brain tumors
  • Liver disease

However, when it comes to infant brain hemorrhages, the cause is usually a birth injury that may have been caused by several elements, such as:

  • Blunt force trauma to the mother’s belly or the newborn baby’s head
  • The baby being dropped soon after delivery
  • High blood pressure in the mother that the baby has inherited

As mentioned, the use of birth-assisted tools, such as forceps, during the delivery can also result in hemorrhaging.

A newborn baby’s skull and head are very fragile, so doctors have to ensure that such tools are used with the utmost care. Forceful and improper pulling when using the birth-assisted tools can damage a baby’s brain, leading to a lifetime of trauma.

The Symptoms of Infant Brain Trauma

It is often easier to assess the symptoms of brain hemorrhaging in adults that in infants. Adults may show signs of dizziness, changes in their vision, difficulty speaking, and severe headaches. But, infants are not able to communicate their symptoms. However, parents can look for the following signs of a brain trauma in their newborn baby:

  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weakness in a leg or arm
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of consciousness

How Can an Infant Brain Hemorrhage Be Diagnosed?

The best test for an infant is a head CT scan as well as an MRI scan. Both tests offer medical imaging of your baby’s brain, which helps to see exactly where the bleeding is affecting the blood cells. With these tests, doctors will know better where to close off the hemorrhage and stop the bleeding to prevent brain cells from dying.

Can Infant Hemorrhages be Prevented?

If your baby’s brain hemorrhage occurred as a result of blunt force trauma during delivery or another medical mistake, it could almost always be prevented. Unless your newborn child is the victim of a rare genetic disease that involves a liver disease, blood disease, or abnormal brain cells, it is up to your physician to treat hypertension for both you and your baby, and an infant should never be dropped or hit.

How Can a Newborn Baby Hemorrhage Be Treated?

Surgery is critical to close off the hemorrhage, cease bleeding, and keep your baby’s brain cells from dying off. No parent wants their baby to go into an emergency brain surgery procedure, but your baby may die without surgery.

Past research has indicated that when we are injured, we can heal easier with cooling therapy. Based on ample research and studies, physicians and scientists developed the idea of placing infants into a clinical treatment setting where their body temperatures are lowered. It is important to note that brain cells start to die within minutes of losing oxygen, so cooling therapy must begin right away.

More About Cooling Therapy for Infants

HIE refers to the lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain, and if immediate treatment is not conducted, newborn babies are at risk of severe brain damage. Most newborns with HIE and hemorrhaging are candidates for cooling therapy or neonatal therapeutic hypothermia.

During the therapy, the baby is placed in a setting in which the temperature is approximately 33°C. Treatment is typically conducted for an average of three days. The clinical setting depends on the baby’s injuries and the hospital’s resources. In most cases, though, newborns are placed on a cooling blanket that has been filled with water. They are then monitored for several days while their metabolic processes begin to slow down.

To be eligible for cooling therapy, infants should display the following signs:

  • A need for resuscitation and oxygen within 10 minutes of being born
  • Infants who are born after 36 weeks gestation
  • Babies with moderate to severe abnormal brain functions and hemorrhaging


Treating subarachnoid hemorrhages in babies depends mainly on the size of the bleed, the cause of the injury, and various other health factors. The important thing is to treat a newborn baby’s brain injury as quickly as possible so as to prevent long-term damage and difficulties.