Like most expectant parents, you anticipate waiting nine months for your baby to enter the world. Expectations are high. You desire a delivery free of complications and a baby born healthy and free from illness or injury. Unfortunately, for some parents and their newborns, birth injury is a reality. Birth injuries include any damage an infant sustains during the birthing process and delivery, typically occurring as the baby travels through the birth canal.
What conditions may cause birth injury?
Babies may suffer birth injuries because they are larger than average or are positioned breech –(with their bottom presenting first instead of the head and shoulders). Sometimes a difficult or prolonged labor can cause a birth injury as well. Premature babies are more likely to suffer injury during birth because their bodies are more fragile than babies born full-term. Cephalopelvic disproportion may cause birth injury as well. This occurs when a mother’s pelvis is not an adequate size and/or shape for the baby. A mechanical force such as compression or traction may cause birth trauma or injury as well.
Types of birth injuries
Some babies may suffer bruising from the use of forceps during the birthing process. If vacuum extraction is performed, bruising or even lacerations may appear on the baby’s scalp. This type of birth injury generally is minor and heals quickly. Facial paralysis also may happen with the use of forceps. A bruised facial nerve will eventually heal but a torn one may require surgery. A subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs when the small blood vessels around the eyes break, resulting in redness. This will disappear after several days. More serious birth injuries may include cerebral palsy, cephalohematoma, collarbone fractures and brachial palsy. The latter is an injury of the brachial plexus or the nerve network from the spine to the shoulders, arms and hands.
Treatment for your baby’s birth injury depends upon the type of injury sustained. Birth injuries such as bruising and minor lacerations will heal quickly and without prolonged medical treatments. A birth injury such as brachial palsy may need treatment that is more intensive. More than half of all babies born with brachial palsy do not need surgery. However, in some cases, the baby’s arm needs surgery to repair damaged nerves. Fractures such as a broken collarbone may require treatment as well, including bandaging or splinting to keep the infant’s shoulder and arm from painful movement. Cerebral palsy cases will differ depending on the type and timing of the injury.
How can parents help protect their unborn babies from birth injuries?
Expecting parents can help reduce the risks of birth injuries by choosing qualified doctors and medical care facilities. Expectant mothers must take care of themselves throughout the pregnancy as well. If something feels wrong during your pregnancy, speak up and tell your doctor. At the hospital during delivery, be proactive. Ask questions, know what medications are being given and be an advocate for your baby at all times.