Brain injuries that occur during the birth of a child are commonly known as neonatal brain damage.
While it’s easy to imagine the most severe cases of brain damage that leave an individual bedridden and unable to communicate, traumatic brain injuries vary in severity. If you and your partner are expecting a baby, this guide will help you understand more about neonatal brain injuries.
What is neonatal brain damage?
Neonatal brain damage occurs during the pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after the birth of a baby. It’s caused by head trauma or by inhibited oxygen flow to the brain. In terms of head trauma, brain injury can be caused by a doctor using surgical or delivery instruments incorrectly or by turning the infant improperly during birth.
Brain trauma resulting from low oxygen can be caused by the way the baby turns inside the womb. If the baby shifts in a way that causes the umbilical cord to become wrapped around the neck, they may suffer inhibited oxygen flow to the brain. Alternatively, improper medication or too much medication can also produce this same condition.
What are the signs that an infant was born with brain damage?
While a newly born infant can’t speak, there are signs to watch for that indicate the infant may have suffered neonatal brain damage. There are a few symptoms you can recognize as a parent. However, other symptoms will have to be identified by a trained and experienced physician.
Some brain damage symptoms may be more severe than others, and the infant may not exhibit every possible indication. However, even one or two persistent symptoms should prompt you to have your infant examined by a medical professional.
Here are a few symptoms of brain damage to look for in a newborn infant:
- Abnormally large forehead
- Deformed or misshapen spinal column
- Distorted facial features
- Inability to focus vision
- Frequent or intense crying
- Lack of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
How can neonatal brain damage be prevented?
While head injuries are the most dangerous during labor, there are some things you can do to prevent or minimize neonatal brain damage. Primarily, you should be examined by your doctor regularly to ensure the fetus is developing normally.
These examinations will involve checking the health of the placenta and the location of the umbilical cord in relation to the fetus. In the beginning stages of pregnancy, women should be examined once every four weeks. However, as they reach the final stages and beginning at 32 weeks, women should be going in for checkups every two weeks.
When an infant suffers brain damage as the result of oxygen deprivation, the condition may be reversible or limited by the use of cool temperatures. This procedure is called brain cooling, and it should be administered as soon after birth as possible. It involves lowering brain temperature by five to seven degrees Fahrenheit over a 72-hour time frame.
Research has found that brain damage doesn’t become permanent until several hours after the brain has been deprived of oxygen. This means that initiating a brain cooling procedure must be done soon after birth to be effective. Ideally, infants with mild to moderate brain damage should be considered for brain cooling within the first six hours to ensure the treatment will be sufficient. Additionally, infants born prematurely may not be suitable candidates.
If you’re pregnant, schedule regular visits with their doctor to ensure you maintain a healthy pregnancy. Additionally, discussing your concerns about neonatal brain damage with your doctor will help you understand more about the risks this poses to your baby.