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Birth Injury - All You Need to Know

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Birth injuries are physical injuries to the mother or child before, during, or after the birthing process. Read the article to know more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sanap Sneha Umrao

Published At June 15, 2023
Reviewed AtJune 19, 2023

Introduction

Birth injuries are physical damage or injury to the mother or child during childbirth. This may sometimes be called birth trauma. In newborn babies, the birth injury is known as neonatal birth trauma. It may include broken bones or bruising in the infant, and in mothers, the injury may cause tearing of the vagina to the pelvic floor. In addition, many newborns have minor injuries during birth. The injury to the mother and the child may be during pregnancy, delivery, or just after delivery. Birth injuries are more common during the regular forces of labor and delivery. The injury is more familiar with large fetuses or when the fetus is lying in an abnormal position in the uterus. Forceful forceps injury may cause severe damage to the fetus or the mother. Nowadays, forceps are used only in the final stages of delivery. The birth injuries are now lower due to the initial prenatal assessment and limited use of forceps during cesarean and standard delivery. The neonatal injury rate was 1.8 per 1000 live births in 2013. Minor birth injuries do not need treatment and heal within days or weeks.

What Is the Difference Between a Birth Injury and a Birth Defect?

Birth Injury: The injuries that occur during childbirth include physical trauma to the mother and baby.

Birth Defect: These are the congenital disabilities that occur when the child is still in the womb. The defect occurs in the baby within the first three months of pregnancy.

What Are the Causes of Birth Injury?

Many conditions and factors can result in brain damage during childbirth. Delayed childbirth is one of the most common causes of birth injuries. With time, the pressure increases on the child’s brain. This can lead to high blood pressure, fetal distress, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. Oxygen deprivation during birth is another cause. This can be due to underdeveloped lungs in premature infants or prolapsed umbilical cord. In addition, specific viral and bacterial infections and medications may cause complications leading to birth injuries. Finally, genetic mutations like the mild cleft, palate and fetal deformities can cause birth injury.

What Are the Risk Factors for Birth Injury?

The risk factors that may increase the birth injury include:

Maternal Risk Factors:

  • The shape and size of the mother's pelvis or birth canal are improper for a safe birth. In addition, the struggle may result in a loss of oxygen flow.

  • The baby's position in the womb may lead to difficult labor or delivery. In addition, the condition makes it difficult for the child to come out during delivery.

  • When the baby is large.

  • If the mother is overweight.

  • Maternal health issues like gestational diabetes can increase the risk of birth injury.

  • In case of complex and prolonged labor.

Infant Risk Factors:

  • The baby's position in the womb. An abnormal fetal position like head-up and buttocks-first is more likely to lead to a birth injury.

  • If the baby is born prematurely, there is a higher risk because the nervous system and muscles are not fully developed.

  • Heavyweight infants are at higher risk.

What Are the Common Types of Birth Injuries?

The common types of birth injuries are as follows:

  • Brachial Palsy: A brachial plexus is a group of nerves that supplies the arms and hands. It may be injured or damaged during a difficult delivery. In mild cases, the nerves usually recover. However, in severe cases, there may be permanent damage.

  • Bruising: Some babies may develop bruising on the face and head due to the pressure caused by the forceps during delivery.

  • Caput Succedaneum: It is the swelling of the soft tissues of the baby's scalp. This occurs when the baby goes through the birth canal. Babies delivered by the vacuum are more likely to develop the condition.

  • Cephalohematoma: It is the bleeding between the skull and its fibrous covering. It occurs several hours after birth as a lump on the baby's head. Depending on the size, the condition will be recovered.

  • Facial Paralysis: The pressure on the baby's face due to the forceps during delivery may lead to facial nerve injury. The injury is seen during the baby cries. There is no movement on one side of the face.

  • Fractures: Fracture of the collar bone is most common during delivery. A baby with clavicle fractures rarely moves one side of the arm.

  • Subconjunctival Hemorrhage: The condition occurs when the tiny blood vessels in the eyes break during forceps delivery.

  • Brain Damage: It may be due to fetal deformities, trauma during delivery, and genetic mutations. Cerebral palsy is one of the most common brain damage during birth. It may affect the different parts of the body and has no cure.

  • Kernicterus: It is a rare form of brain damage caused due to untreated neonatal jaundice.

What Are the Symptoms of Birth Injuries?

The immediate symptoms in infants include difficulty in suckling, drooling of saliva, low oxygen levels, low heart rate, and high-pitch crying. After twelve months of age, symptoms include difficulty walking, blindness, inability to sit, stiff muscles, loss of body movements, and low memory retention.

How Can Birth Injuries Be Diagnosed?

The doctor may diagnose birth injuries at birth by checking the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels through an umbilical cord blood gas analysis. In addition, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Computed tomography (CT) scans may analyze brain damage.

How Can Birth Injuries Be Treated?

Some birth injuries are mild and may heal on their own. However, some injuries, like more profound tears, need stitches. In addition, the physiotherapist may provide exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to treat the damage of the pelvic floor muscles. Finally, some females may need surgeries to repair the damage and prolapse.

How Can Birth Injuries Be Prevented?

The preventive measures that can reduce the risk of birth injuries include:

  • Pregnancy-safe exercise regularly.

  • Daily pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles.

  • Avoid constipation because it will weaken the pelvic muscles.

  • Delivering the birth via cesarean delivery may prevent some birth injuries.

Conclusion

Birth injuries are common and may damage or injure the mother and baby before and during childbirth. The injury may be due to forceful forceps injury, genetic mutations, or delayed or premature birth. In addition, several types of birth injuries may damage the newborn. For example, the infant may not be able to sit and suckle properly. In addition, due to facial nerve palsy, there may be no movement on one side of the face. As a result, there may be brain damage and bone fractures. Some birth injuries may heal on their own, and some require treatment. The healthcare provider may diagnose the wound early to prevent further complications.

Dr. Sanap Sneha Umrao
Dr. Sanap Sneha Umrao

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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