What to do if your baby has suffered a birth injury

Having a baby is an exciting time for a family but it is also edged with nervousness and sometimes a little bit of anxiety about what can go wrong. Sometimes birth doesn’t always go to plan and your baby may incur a birth injury. 

Birth injuries range from severe and immediately detectable to milder and more difficult to recognise. 

One of the first things that happens after a baby is born is the Apgar Score, which involves checking a baby’s breathing and oxygen levels and responsiveness to stimulation on automatic reflexes. 

An Apgar Score of less than three can be a sign of a birth injury such as brain damage. 

Some of the possible birth injury symptoms are bruising, unusual eye movements, muscle weakness or paralysis, excessive fussiness, and seizures. Some signs might not be evident until the child is older, this may be just a few days older or months or years. 

If a birth injury is detected while you are still at the hospital after giving birth then a specialist Doctor will normally come to see you to discuss the options available. This is a distressing time for parents and if you are not comfortable with their diagnosis or even feel like they are not a good fit for your family you may want to ask to see another Doctor. 

Birth injury baby, being held by doctors

One of the most common types of birth injury is damage to the brachial plexus nerves, which control the movement and sensation in the arms. These nerves can easily be damaged when a child emerges from the birth canal, and the doctor or midwife pulls too hard. 

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves in the shoulder that carries movement and sensory signals from the spinal cord to the arms and hands.

Other signs include:

  • A weaker grip in one hand
  • One arm held awkwardly against the side of the body
  • The absence of the Moro reflex

The Moro reflex is a normal reflex for an infant when he or she is startled or feels like they are falling. The infant will have a startled look and the arms will fling out sideways with the palms up and the thumbs flexed. Absence of the Moro reflex in newborn infants is abnormal and may indicate an injury.

Cranial nerve injury during birth is a less common type of nerve injury. Symptoms may include facial paralysis or asymmetrical movements in the face.

The cranial nerves are a set of 12 paired nerves in the back of your brain. Cranial nerves send electrical signals between your brain, face, neck and torso. Your cranial nerves help you taste, smell, hear and feel sensations. They also help you make facial expressions, blink your eyes and move your tongue.

Skull Fracture Symptoms

Infant skull fracture symptoms range from mild to severe and debilitating. They include irritability, crying, lethargy, swelling or a depression in the head, and seizures. Noting the signs and symptoms of an infant skull fracture is essential for early intervention and treatment.

  • Muscle spasms
  • Extreme fatigue

Brain Damage Symptoms

There are a variety of brain damage symptoms. The symptoms aren’t always obvious, but sometimes there are noticeable immediate signs. These early signs may include an unusually shaped skull, a small head, or a prominent forehead.

The spinal column may also be malformed, and the facial features may be distorted and the neck stiff. A baby with brain damage may also have unusual eye movements. Seizures also occur in babies with brain damage. General fussiness or discomfort that seems excessive may also occur.

As a child with brain damage grows older, more symptoms may emerge:[4]

  • Including developmental delays
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Behavioral challenges
  • Issues with physical development, such as failure to meet typical developmental milestones
  • Tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Extreme fatigue

What to Do if Your Child Shows Birth Injury Symptoms

If you suspect something is wrong with your baby, inform your doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment of a birth injury can spare your child many more symptoms in the future. Although not all birth injury cases can be cured or reversed, early interventions can even help with things like educational and development problems. 

There are all sorts of assistance available for children with disabilities and doing your research early on will help you find the support you need to give your child the best possible life.

* The articles provided on the Stalwart Law website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used as professional legal advice or as a substitute for legal consultation with a qualified attorney.  

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