6 Most Common Types of Birth Injuries
Newborn babies sometimes suffer mild and severe physical injuries during the delivery process. These injuries can result due to several factors and are known as birth injury or birth trauma. A few reasons why a birth injury may occur are:
- The baby was bigger than expected or born too early or prematurely
- The baby wasn’t head-first in the birth canal
- The shape of the mother’s pelvis or birth canal made it hard for normal vaginal birth
- Devices like vacuums or forceps were used to deliver the baby
- Nurse or doctor failed to manage a smooth delivery
- The doctor failed to diagnose a health condition in either the baby or the mother that could have been treated before delivery
- General medical negligence and failure to provide quality care
Let’s take a look at some of the most common birth injuries a child may suffer before, during, or after the childbirth procedure.
1. Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s Palsy is one of the birth injuries caused by nerve damage in infants. The nerves near the neck, also referred to as the brachial plexus, connect to all the nerves in an infant’s arm.
Damage to these nerves results in weakness and, in most cases, loss of motion since they are responsible for providing the feeling and sensation of having a shoulder and a connected arm. The main cause of Erb’s Palsy is often the stretching of an infant’s neck during the delivery procedure.
However, 1 or 2 out of 1,000 babies suffer from this condition. In most cases, Erb’s Palsy may recover naturally once an infant’s nerves start to strengthen up, but this is a slow process and may take up to 1 – 2 years. Thus, regular examination by professional doctors is necessary to ensure timely recovery.
2. Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is linked to a lack of motor skill development or muscular weakness in an infant. It may occur in 2-3 out of every 1,000 children born. If not recovered earlier, this condition may take a lifetime of therapy for a child.
The injury may result from multiple factors, including damage to the brain during the birth process, improper birthing techniques, and fetal distress in a mother during labor. Unfortunately, cerebral palsy may lead to other health problems later in life, including hearing and sight disabilities, learning difficulties, and problems with speech.
3. Facial Paralysis
During the delivery procedure, a large amount of pressure is exerted on the baby’s face and head. This may result in nerve damage if not taken care of properly. If forceps or vacuum extractions are used to pull the baby out, this may create additional pressure or pulling effect on one or both sides of a child’s face and may cause facial paralysis for a lifetime.
This can impact one side, both or partially, to certain parts of the face, resulting in a child being unable to move lips, cheeks, or eyelids.
4. Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)
This kind of birth injury occurs when the white matter present in the brain reduces or dies. This results in severe loss of tissues in the brain. As we know, white matter comprises nerve fibers that help the motor function by relaying signals and is responsible for the ability of the brain to function and learn.
Periventricular leukomalacia usually occurs when there is a lack of blood flow to the brain’s periventricular part. This can co-occur with severe bleeding. Thus, placental infection and failure may lead to periventricular leukomalacia, also known as PVL.
5. Intracranial Hemorrhage
This type of birth injury is classified as brain bleeding. The most common reason for intracranial hemorrhage is a fetal stroke from damaged or blocked blood vessels. Placenta complications, high blood pressure, and infections in the mother’s reproductive system are all the reasons that lead to an intracranial hemorrhage. This type of birth injury is mostly observed in premature infants.
6. Perinatal Asphyxia
The condition has only one root cause: oxygen deprivation either during or after the child’s birth. This deprivation of oxygen may cause multiple complex health conditions, including seizures.
Another reason this may occur is due to the already deficit amount of oxygen in a child’s blood. If the baby is breathing abnormally after labor or has a pale complexion, they may suffer from perinatal asphyxia, which may result in coma or even seizures or in most conditions. This condition may not heal independently and require medical help and treatment as soon as possible.
The Final Thoughts
Labor is an intensive procedure and requires standard procedures. There are too many factors at play that may, unfortunately, result in injuries and disabilities for a child. Therefore, it is the responsibility of parents and medical professionals to take precautions and follow guidelines to ensure the safest labor for a child.
While medical procedures like vacuum extraction and forceps have saved many lives, minor negligence or lack of attention, practice, and care may cause a human being a lifelong disability. The trauma not only affects a child who faces such a physical or mental disability but an entire family throughout their lives.
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