What Causes a Baby to be Born with Brain Damage?

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The arrival of a baby is supposed to be a moment filled with happiness and joy. Your family waited months to meet its newest member, and now that moment is finally here.

When you discover something might be wrong with your precious new baby, it can be understandably frightening. Unfortunately, brain damage during labor or in the first few days of a baby’s life is possible, even if uncommon. But what would cause a baby to be born with a brain injury?

#1. Oxygen Deprivation

One of the most common causes of infant brain damage is when the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen; either during labor, delivery, or the first few hours after birth.

Babies must be constantly monitored to assure they’re getting enough oxygen. There is only a small opportunity for medical professionals to treat low oxygen saturation before brain damage occurs.

Even a few moments of oxygen deprivation can lead to lifelong complications such as cerebral palsy, impaired vision, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other conditions.

Oxygen deprivation, or birth asphyxia, occurs in about 3 in every 1,000 full-term births. It is slightly more common in premature babies, since they often lack the needed anatomical development to breathe on their own.

There are several reasons a baby may be deprived of oxygen, including:

  • Umbilical cord problems, such as being wrapped around a baby’s neck
  • Maternal blood pressure problems
  • The placenta separating from the uterus too early
  • A traumatic birth, such as getting stuck in the birth canal
  • Constricted fetal airway

Many of these problems can be rectified with proper provider attention and monitoring.

#2. Maternal Infection

When a mother has an infection, she can pass it down to her baby, creating complications. If left untreated, certain bacteria and viruses can lead to brain damage.

This is why doctors check mothers for sexually transmitted infections and group B strep before delivery. This is part of the standard of care, and failing to adhere to this standard may be considered negligence.

#3. Physical Trauma

A traumatic birth can have wide-ranging consequences, one of which is brain damage. Physical trauma during labor and delivery can lead to oxygen deprivation, which accounts for about half of all neonatal brain injuries.

Premature babies are most at risk for physical trauma during birth. Some examples of this, like mentioned in the Birth Injury Guide, include failure to use birth assistive devices properly, or a labor that progresses too rapidly with assistive medications.

On the other hand, a protracted delivery in which a baby’s head repeatedly hits the pelvic bone, or a delivery involving excessive twisting or pulling, may also lead to brain damage.

What Are the Symptoms of Infant Brain Injury?

In the most serious cases, symptoms of brain injury will be readily apparent to medical professionals, who will order an MRI. In others, symptoms will not appear until days or weeks after birth. Keep an eye out for these symptoms of infant brain injury:

  • Difficulty in feeding
  • High-pitched, keening cries
  • Fussiness that does not abate
  • Problems gaining weight
  • Jaundice
  • Seizures
  • Reflexes that are weak or not present
  • Failure to meet expected developmental milestones
  • Excessive stiffness or floppiness

Will My Child Develop Normally?

It’s hard to say what the long-term effects of an infant brain injury will be. Some children develop normally and exhibit few long-lasting effects. Others require a lifetime of special therapies, accommodations, and treatments.

If your child has suffered a birth injury to the brain, it may be the result of provider negligence.

If you have any questions about your case and whether or not you’re eligible for compensation for medical expenses, consult with the Baltimore birth injury attorney at Rice, Murtha & Psoras. Call today! (410) 694-7291


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