Understanding Infant Brain Damage
Millions of babies each year suffer from different forms of infant brain damage. There are numerous types of brain damage that an infant can suffer before, during, or just after childbirth, with ranging severities. Most cases, though, will result in permanent neurological issues, which may affect your child physically and/or intellectually.
For a better understanding of your case and whether or not your child’s brain damage could have been prevented, it’s important to understand the different causes and types of infant brain damage, as well as available treatment options.
Most Common Causes of Infant Brain Damage
While there are seemingly countless potential causes for infant brain damage, the most common include:
- Untreated maternal infection
- Infant jaundice
- Oxygen deprivation
- Physical trauma during childbirth
We will now take a moment to delve deeper into each of these causes to help you understand what may have happened and how your child’s infant brain damage may have been prevented.
Untreated Maternal Infection
A number of untreated maternal infections can negatively affect the health of an unborn baby. Many of these may not actually affect the baby until childbirth, though. For example, exposure to a meningitis infection during birth can cause cerebral palsy, which can result in physical and intellectual disabilities.
Other maternal infections that can lead to infant brain damage include but are not limited to:
- A cough lasting more than a week
Because it’s such a common condition, people tend to dismiss infant jaundice. And, if it’s treated promptly, jaundice is nothing to worry about. However, if it goes untreated, the elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood causing the yellowish tinge to your baby’s skin could cause kernicterus, a type of brain damage with a number of symptoms, including screaming, high fever, lethargy, and extreme, abnormal back arching. This condition can progress to become acute bilirubin encephalopathy, with worsened symptoms and vomiting.
Also called birth asphyxia, oxygen deprivation can be caused by a number of issues, including:
- Underdeveloped lungs
- Low birth weight
- Prolapsed or kinked umbilical cord
- Shoulder dystocia
Any oxygen deprivation at all during childbirth can greatly increase the chances of infant brain damage, which can lead to a number of problems, including attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), impaired vision, or cerebral palsy.
Physical Trauma During Childbirth
While these other factors can and do cause infant brain damage, physical trauma during childbirth continues to be the leading cause of brain damage in babies in the US today. Essentially, labor and delivery open up a wide variety of opportunities for doctors to make serious medical mistakes that can lead to trauma to the baby, resulting in physical injury and/or brain damage.
In many cases, trauma can be avoided if the doctor is observant and acts quickly to avoid the misuse of certain birth-assisting tools and to avoid scenarios in which brain trauma is more likely. However, sometimes trauma still occurs even in a perfect labor and delivery.
The most common physical trauma to cause infant brain damage during childbirth is the improper use of forceps and/or vacuum equipment. If these tools are placed improperly, they can cause physical harm to the child’s head, resulting in brain damage.
Spotting Signs and Symptoms of Infant Brain Damage
You may think that it will be impossible to tell if your child has suffered brain damage until later in their development, but some signs appear within the first hours, days, weeks, and months of your baby’s life. For example, a baby with cerebral palsy may make unusual facial expressions, especially in their sleep. They may also seem to be too stiff or too limp when you pick them up, and when you hold them, they may seem like they’re constantly pushing away from you.
Other signs and symptoms may show up as developmental delays, such as failure to walk or talk by two years or, earlier, the inability to roll over to either side after six months.
Infant brain damage can result in a number of serious conditions, which can call for long-term therapy and treatment, expensive surgery, and/or life-long care and assistance. Find out more about whether or not your child’s infant brain damage could have been prevented – contact us today for a free consultation.