Brain Injuries Acquired at Birth

June 07, 2017

There are many causes of brain injury sustained during birth and a number of conditions that can arise as a result of being brain injured.   There are also different degrees of brain damage – it can be a mild brain injury or the damage can be more severe.   It may also not be until the child reaches certain development stages that parents become aware that their child has some brain damage.  

As a result of brain injury a child can have cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hearing loss, mobility problems among other things.  This is a large, complex area and cannot be covered in one article.  Therefore, here we discuss only some of the causes.

Oxygen Deprivation – out of every 1000 full term births, 4 babies will suffer from oxygen deprivation.  This can be caused by a number of things including problems with the umbilical cord.   For example, if the cord is twisted, or knotted or prolapsed this can stop oxygen getting to the baby.  Cutting the cord too soon can also have the same effect.  Some babies are born with the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck which has to be dealt with immediately.   Other causes of oxygen deprivation can be mucus blocking the baby’s airways, or placental abruptions, where the placenta separates too early.  

Physical Trauma - sometimes the baby can get stuck in the birth canal and this can result in physical trauma as well as lack of oxygen, leading to conditions such as shoulder dystocia, (where the shoulders become stuck for some time behind the mother’s pelvis but the head has been delivered) which can lead to Erb’s Palsy (where the nerves in the baby’s upper arm are damaged causing paralysis).   Physical trauma can occur where there has been excessive pulling by a doctor or midwife during birth or an abnormal use of tools such as forceps or ventouse.  

Infant Jaundice – this is a fairly common condition that arises especially in premature babies and is caused where a substance called bilirubin builds up in the body.  The skin and whites of the eye turn yellow.    If spotted early it is usually treated successfully.  All new-borns are checked within the first few days after birth and mild jaundice will often disappear on its own.  However, if several jaundice is left untreated it can lead to cerebral palsy or cause kernicterus, a type of brain damage, otherwise known as acute bilirubin encephalopathy.

Maternal Infections – these can occur during either birth or the pregnancy itself and certain infections can cause birth injuries and put the baby at risk.   Infections such as rubella, chicken pox and sexually transmitted diseases can lead to brain injury as well as various other complications.  Cytomegalovirus is part of the herpes virus and in most people will cause fairly mild, flu-like symptoms.  However, when the virus is passed from mother to baby during pregnancy it can cause learning disabilities and other developmental problems after birth.  Pre-eclampsia, thought to be caused by a problem between the placenta and blood supply, can affect 5-8% of pregnancies and if not treated and monitored can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby including restricted blood flow and lack of oxygen.

In most cases, if any of the above are spotted early enough and treated the effects on the baby can be prevented or limited.   However, when conditions are not picked up, treated, or dealt with quickly it can lead to life-long complications for the baby.  As well as the emotional distress this will obviously cause, this can also put severe financial pressure and constraints on a family.    If you believe that your son or daughter suffered a brain injury at birth as a result of someone else’s negligence, then we can investigate your claim and provide you with advice and assistance.  

Here at Metcalfes we deal with all areas of medical negligence, including brain injury. If you think that you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury as a result of medical negligence or are concerned with the quality of care and treatment they are now receiving for a brain injury, we may be able to help. Please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

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Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Brain Injuries Acquired at Birth

Gillian Clark

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