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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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Signs of Neurological Problems in Babies

Most babies are born without any problems; however, some can suffer from a birth injury or birth defect that causes a neurological problem. Neurological damage ranges from mild to severe. The most severe injuries are life threatening while mild injuries may not have any impact on the child.

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Apgar Score

Elk & Elk

Infants are evaluated at birth and rated according to the Apgar scale. The Apgar score provides information that doctors use, to quickly assess, and treat infants immediately at birth. The test is done at one minute and 5 minutes after birth. The score at 5 minutes is a good predictor of potential neurological and developmental disabilities. The test scores breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color from 0 to 2, with 0 being low. A perfect Apgar score is 10.

Neurological Exam

If a newborn suffered a lack of oxygen during labor or birth, the doctor should perform a neurological examination to make a preliminary diagnosis.

The exam evaluates babies in various categories including:

  • Level of Consciousness
  • Spontaneous Activity
  • Posture
  • Tone
  • Primitive Reflexes
  • Autonomic System (Respiration, Pupils and Heart Rate)
  • Whether the infant suffered seizures
  • Whether the infant is paralyzed or sedated

Additionally, the baby’s head shape and size are checked. If the infant shows any signs of damage, additional testing may be necessary. An MRI or CT scan could be performed to view the infant’s brain. An electroencephalogram (EEG) measures and records brain activity.

Signs of Neurological Problems

Diagnosing brain damage in infants can be difficult. There are some symptoms that may be present that could indicate neurological problems.

  • Infant is sleepy, has trouble waking up
  • Infant does not exhibit normal movements
  • Baby’s posture is stiff
  • Muscle tone is low, baby’s limbs are limp
  • Baby won’t nurse due to sucking difficulties
  • Infant’s respiration is weak, or heart rate is low or erratic
  • Infant suffers seizures
  • Baby is unable to move some or all of his limbs

A baby’s reflexes are a good indication of neurological function. These are the important reflex evaluations that can be done.

  • Blinking – the infant should close his eyes when a light is shone
  • Babinski reflex – When the baby’s foot is stroked his toes should become extended
  • Crawling – When the baby is put on his stomach he will make crawling motions
  • Startle reflex – The baby will quickly change position or extend his arms when startled
  • Palmer grasp – The infant will grasp onto a finger with his hand

These symptoms are reviewed in an exam. Keep in mind that an infant’s brain damage could be mild, moderate or severe. Each baby is different and resulting problems may be minimal or could be more serious.

Babies can suffer brain damage after birth. An infant could be dropped, may be shaken, or could suffer a near-drowning among other accidents. These types of accidents could cause injuries to babies. Parents may have a fear that their child is suffering from neurological problems. It is important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. The doctor will examine the infant and may have testing done to verify the diagnosis.