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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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What Are Neonatal Brain Injuries?

A neonatal brain injury is one sustained by an infant during birth. People often associate it with medical mistakes and blunt force trauma, but oxygen deprivation, strokes, and inflammation can cause injuries that lead to encephalopathy and potential long-term deficits in motor, cognitive, and intellectual functions.

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A traumatic incident doesn’t have to occur for a baby to sustain a brain injury. Infections in the mother or infant can trigger the release of pro-inflammatory compounds, which can interfere with cellular and nervous system development.

Neonatal Brain Injury – Prevention Starts with the Mother

Elk & Elk

Amniotic infections can remain undetected and lead to inflammation that impedes blood flow and damages cells and structures. Pregnant women should therefore be tested, and learn about the risks and symptoms. If an infection is diagnosed early, antibiotics can be administered to treat the problem. Streptococcus and chorioamnionitis can be avoided through proper hygiene and other means. The outcome of such infections may be improved with early detection and treatment.

How Neonatal Brain Injuries Occur

  • Difficult delivery: Forceps, suction, and other instruments used during delivery can cause cranial damage that affects the brain; long labor and caesarean sections can as well.
  • Maternal risk factors: The risk for neonatal brain injury rises with maternal fever, intrauterine growth retardation, infertility, and pre-eclampsia, or abnormalities in maternal blood pressure.
  • Lack of oxygen: Brain cells can die almost immediately in infancy if there is not enough oxygen reaching them. This can also damage myelin, an insulating tissue that surrounds nerve cells, which can prevent messages from transmitting between the brain and nervous system.
  • Stroke: A stroke or other type of hemorrhage can cause bleeding serious enough to prevent blood from reaching vital parts of the brain. The effects are similar to oxygen deprivation and vary depending on the size and scope of the area affected.

Identifying a Brain Injury

Medical professionals are trained to spot the patterns that appear on the results of tests such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. When an immature brain is damaged or an ischemic event occurs, the pattern will show it, although this can vary depending on the severity of the problem. Physicians can often diagnose the injury and its extent using this technique. It also takes time to uncover the true extent of a problem; sequential scanning may be needed because a brain injury can evolve over days or longer.

A neonatal brain injury can also involve the depletion of tissue energy reserves, so glucose levels may be monitored. Phosphates and mitochondrial activity can also be indicators of brain activity. Since additional damage can occur during re-oxygenation, continual testing may be required. The mechanisms of intracellular regulation of calcium, excitotoxicity, and mitochondrial impairment are not as easily measured visually. The patterns of brain injury can therefore be elusive.

Infant brain injuries can result in direct symptoms such as seizures, irritability, and coma, or their effects can remain hidden for years. Extensive testing is needed to determine the exact nature of such an injury. Encephalopathy comes in many forms and the long-term outcome varies greatly from one person to another.