An understandable concern with any new parent to be is the risk of brain damage in their baby. Brain injuries can be serious and certainly life changing, for both the child and the family. Sometimes problems can develop during the pregnancy, while others manifest themselves during labor itself.
One common reason for brain damage in babies is due to lack of oxygen during labor. This is known as birth asphyxia, which essentially means the baby suffered an interruption of blood flow or oxygen supply to the brain. Oxygen deprivation triggers include a placenta that separates too early from the uterus, a problem with the umbilical cord, or the baby is stuck in the birth canal.
Physical injury to the mother during the course of pregnancy or instruments like forceps can also result in a baby being born with brain damage. There are some risks for brain injury during pregnancy, which include maternal infections, multiple or premature births, problems with the mother’s thyroid, or blood pressure known as “preeclampsia.”
Most doctors are competent, but some methods or tools in addition to forceps can cause a baby to be born with brain damage:
● Failing to use a fetal heart monitor or monitor glucose
● Improperly handled prolapsed umbilical cord
● Use of vacuum extractors
● Delayed C-section
● Attempting vaginal birth after a C-section
● Improper or excessive use of Pitocin
Cerebral Palsy is one of the more common conditions that results from brain damage in babies. The brain can fail to develop during pregnancy, or there can be an issue during labor, like oxygen deprivation, that can cause cerebral palsy. Traumatic head injuries during development or a stroke around the time of birth are two other problems that can give rise to cerebral palsy. Once the baby is born, it’s important to monitor blood sugar levels. A baby with extremely low blood sugar is at risk for cerebral palsy if it’s left untreated.
Other Types of Brain Injuries
Other conditions outside of cerebral palsy can develop as well. Erb’s Palsy, which is also called Brachial Plexus Palsy, skull fractures, brain hemorrhaging, brain swelling, or nerve damage are other common conditions that result from brain damage in babies.
Symptoms of Brain Injuries
Some symptoms of a brain injury may be evident immediately, while others may not manifest until the baby is a little bit older. Symptoms can include:
● Distorted facial features
● Abnormally big or tiny head
● Eyes unable to focus
● Stiff neck
● Problems with feeding
● Tremors or seizures
● Light sensitivity
● Trouble sleeping
● Excessive crying for no reason
As your child begins to grow, he or she may miss important milestones that can also be an indicator of brain damage at birth. If your child fails to sit up without assistance, is not crawling, doesn’t start walking, etc. — these can all be important signs that something is wrong.
Treatment for Brain-Damaged Babies
Treatment for brain injuries at birth depends on the immediate circumstances. A baby may need to be resuscitated and admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Your doctor may request imaging studies, like a CT and/or MRI scan, to see the baby’s brain and any potential signs of injury. These scans can provide detailed images that can show problems like a skull fracture, swelling, bleeding, or ischemic brain tissue.
Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia, or infant cooling, may be another option in limited circumstances. This involves lowering the baby’s body temperature which may help stop the development of brain injuries in babies who were deprived of oxygen at birth. Infant cooling slows down the metabolism through a special cooling mat or cooled packs which can slow and prevent the death of brain cells after the oxygen deprivation. If the brain damage already occurred, infant cooling cannot reverse the damage.
The Importance of a Birth Injury Attorney
Experienced Northern California birth injury attorneys can assist in a variety of ways when it comes to brain injuries in babies. They can assist with determining the origin of your baby’s brain injury by working with the family to establish whether there was a possibility of a preventable injury.
While some children go on to lead fully independent lives, others may need lifelong support and additional care, like equipment, therapy, and adapted housing. If your baby suffered a preventable brain injury, your attorney will fight to get you the compensation you deserve to help reimburse what you’ve already spent while ensuring future medical treatment is covered.
The attorneys at Wakeford Gelini have more than four decades of combined experience helping clients through all of Northern California. We have convenient office locations in both San Francisco and Marin County. Contact our office at 415-578-3510 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.