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What Causes Brain Damage During Birth?

by | Nov 10, 2021 | Birth Injury, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury

Determining Your Legal Rights If Your Newborn Sustained a Brain Injury at Birth

A newborn can sustain brain damage in a matter of minutes. A medical professional’s failure to quickly address signs of fetal distress or a lack of oxygen can result in severe injury or death to an infant. No parent should have to go through this tragedy, particularly if the birth injury was preventable.

At Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner, & Davey, P.A., we work hard to hold negligent practitioners accountable when an infant suffers harm during the labor and delivery process. Birth injuries can be severe, requiring lifelong treatment. If your child sustained brain trauma at birth, call our office at (410) 685-2022 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation.

What Are the Primary Causes of Newborn Brain Injury?

There are several causes linked to brain damage in newborns. While some are the result of natural causes, many occur because of medical malpractice or negligence. 

Common causes of brain damage during birth:

  • Lack of oxygen
  • Lack of blood flow
  • Difficult or prolonged labor
  • Improper use of obstetric instruments (Forceps or vacuum-assisted deliveries)
  • Maternal or fetal infection

Obstetricians and other health care providers have a duty to use a reasonable standard of care when delivering babies; when they breach that duty, they must be held accountable.

How Does a Lack of Oxygen Cause Brain Damage?

When an infant is deprived of oxygen (birth asphyxia), brain damage can occur within a few minutes. There are two forms of oxygen deprivation that can result in brain trauma to a newborn: anoxia and hypoxia.

Anoxia occurs when the infant’s oxygen supply is completely cut off. Permanent brain damage can occur within 4 minutes if there is a complete lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain.   

On the other hand, hypoxia occurs when the oxygen flow is reduced but not completely cut off. Hypoxia can still result in a catastrophic brain injury within a few minutes. 

What Is HIE?

Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy or HIE is a serious birth injury that occurs in approximately 1.5 to 2.5 per every 1,000 live births in developed countries. The condition is the result of oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow to the brain of an infant. 

HIE generally results in permanent brain damage if not treated immediately. Even with treatment, an infant may suffer from cognitive and developmental delays. HIE can result in lifelong disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy.

Are Hemorrhages and Hematomas a form of Birth Injury?

Intracranial Hemorrhages and hematomas (bleeding in and around the brain) are a form of birth injury that can occur before, during, and immediately after the labor and delivery process. 

Common hematomas and hemorrhages sustained by newborns:

  • Cephalic hematoma
  • Subgaleal hematoma
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage
  • Subdural hemorrhage

Bleeding in and around the brain can be caused by a number of factors. Doctors should monitor closely for signs of fetal distress and order an emergency c-section to try and minimize trauma to the newborn’s brain.

What Can Cause a Lack of Blood Flow to the Fetus?

Any disruption of blood supply from a mother to the fetus can result in brain damage. There are several conditions that may cause a decrease in blood flow. Doctors and nurses must constantly be monitoring for these conditions to prevent birth injury or harm to the fetus.

Conditions which may cause a lack of blood flow:

  • Placental abruption
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Preeclampsia or eclampsia
  • Placental insufficiency

Throughout pregnancy, a doctor should be monitoring for conditions that may result in a lack of blood flow. A failure to diagnose a pre-existing condition may result in liability. Inadequate blood flow and oxygen deprivation during birth can result in cognitive impairment, seizures, or paralysis.

What Are the Risk Factors for Brain Injury During Birth?

Many birth injuries can be prevented by reducing specific risk factors. Adequate prenatal care and early diagnosis can help ensure the safe delivery of a baby. In addition, recognizing signs of fetal distress and monitoring for any complications can help reduce the likelihood that an infant sustains brain damage during the labor and delivery process.

Risk factors for brain trauma or birth injury include:

  • Prematurity
  • Use forceps or vacuum-extraction
  • Prolonged or stressed labor
  • Abnormal or breech presentation
  • Low birth weight

If your infant was diagnosed with brain damage caused by a medical provider’s negligence, you might be entitled to compensation. A birth injury lawsuit can help make sure that your child receives the best medical care available throughout their lifetime.

Was Your Child Diagnosed with Brain Damage During Birth?

In the heartbreaking event that your infant sustained a brain injury during birth, call our office at (410) 685-2022 or fill out our online contact form for a free case consultation. Our esteemed legal team has helped recover millions of dollars on behalf of families in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. 

Call our office today to speak directly with an experienced lawyer. All consultations are free and confidential.

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