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Newborn head and brain injuries

There are quite a few ways that your infant's head could be affected adversely during labor and delivery. Often, head injuries can be natural outcomes of childbirth and may not even require treatment. However, if some injuries are not recognized and treated quickly, what might have been a minor issue could lead to serious brain damage. At Elk & Elk Co., Ltd., we often advise mothers on the best legal approach for dealing with infant brain damage that could have been avoided.

You may have noticed that many newborns have misshapen heads; the Merck Manual explains that this is not a problem at all. In fact, the ability of the unfixed skull bones to shift and elongate the head actually prevents injury as the baby goes through the birth canal. If there is a problematic skull fracture, though, you may see an indentation. This could lead to bleeding between the skull and the outer layer of brain tissue, also known as an epidural hematoma. Often, hematomas put pressure on the brain, and your baby may have seizures or apnea as a result. 

Some head injuries are due to instrument use during a vaginal delivery. These may include scratches caused by the following:

  • Monitor leads that are attached to the infant's scalp
  • Forceps
  • Vacuum extractors

Your baby may also develop bruises and swelling on his or her scalp due to these or other causes, but these generally are not serious and resolve themselves without a doctor's treatment. 

Hemorrhages in or around the brain often lead to seizures, as well as other issues. These brain bleeds may occur in various areas, and treatment may include fluids delivered through an I.V., warmth and other interventions provided in the neonatal intensive care unit. A subgaleal hemorrhage is particularly dangerous because the blood can spread, possibly leading to enough blood loss to require a transfusion. A vacuum extractor or forceps could cause this, or it could be related to a blood clotting problem.

More information about medical mistakes during labor and delivery, please visit our webpage.

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