Birth Injuries

What are Birth Injuries?

Physical injuries inflicted on the infant before, during, or right after the birth process are birth injuries.

What is Birth Trauma?

Birth trauma refers to the mechanical damage done to the child’s tissues and organs.

What is the Difference Between Birth Defects and Birth Injuries?

Environmental factors during the first three months of development and inherited defects cause birth defects, while birth injuries are physical and take place closer to birth.

How Common are Birth Injuries?

Between six and eight babies are born with an injury out of every thousand in the United States. Therefore, one person in every 9,714 people has a birth injury. However, the rate of birth injuries is declining compared to previous decades due to proper use of forceps during delivery, the use of advanced prenatal assessment like ultrasonography, and the increased use of cesarean delivery for complicated births.

Are Birth Injuries Fatal?

Most birth injuries are nonfatal, and as experts discover new childbirth techniques and technologies, the rate of injuries lowers in general. Some injuries even resolve themselves without treatment. However, some injuries can escalate and lead to the infant’s death. These conditions include antepartum hemorrhage, eclampsia, placental abruption, and spinal cord damage.

What Causes Birth Injuries?

Physical pressure creates most birth injuries, which usually occur during transit through the birth canal. Some of the common conditions for birth injuries include the delivery of large babies of about 4,000 grams, premature babies with fragile bodies prone to immediate injury, the inadequacy of the mother’s pelvis, difficult or prolonged labor, and abnormal infant positions.

One of the major causes of birth injuries is the improper use of forceps, an instrument designed to pull a fetus’s head. Doctors traditionally use them when the risk of a cesarean birth is high. Pulling the fetus from the birth canal would lead to a high risk of birth injury, mostly head injury.

What are Some Common Types of Birth Injuries?

Common birth injuries include fractures and bruises caused by difficult delivery or forceps use. These lesions tend to heal by themselves over time or with minor treatment. Caput is swelling of the baby’s scalp that also heals after a time. Damage to the facial nerve causes facial paralysis. Depending on whether the damage is a bruise or a tear, the nerve can heal or need surgery. Brachial palsy is damage to the brachial plexus, which recovers with enough time and exercises if the doctor bruises the brachial plexus, but it can create permanent nerve damage if torn.

What are Some Serious Types of Birth Injuries?

The more serious injuries are hemorrhages, such as subdural and epidural, that lead to conditions like apnea and seizures. Hemorrhages cause internal bleeding that places pressure on the brain. Improved childbirth methods cause fewer of these injuries, but newborns who suffer from them stay in neonatal intensive care units for treatment and support. Spinal cord injuries can lead to permanent paralysis and death but are rare due to prevention of overstretching during delivery.

Perinatal asphyxia is the decrease in the baby’s blood flow or oxygen during delivery. Physical birth injuries (such as placental abruption and obstruction of umbilical blood flow) sometimes cause perinatal asphyxia, which affects the infant’s organs, including the heart, lungs, and brain. Physicians use a combination of resuscitation, drugs, and blood transfusions to treat the condition. About 20% of cerebral palsy patients sustained their conditions from birth injuries, specifically perinatal asphyxia.

How can Birth Injuries be Prevented?

Health care providers can prevent birth injuries through the proper use of tools and medication, communication between specialists and patients, and close examination of the patient in the delivery room.