How can a baby's brain be injured during birth?
When parents are expecting, both mothers and fathers will sometimes delve into the literature regarding pregnancy, birth and child development. It's natural to want to understand the processes that lead to a healthy son or daughter, especially if it is a first child and the parents are understandably a bit nervous. One topic that may be a little tough to digest, however, is the subject of birth injury and its prevention.
There are many different ways in which a delivery might have harmful complications; one of the most traumatic is when such complications result in brain injuries to newborns. A baby's brain being injured can lead to lifelong disability, as well as untold emotional and financial difficulty for the parents. Thus, as difficult of a subject as it is, it's important for parents to be at least somewhat familiar with brain trauma that can happen in the delivery room.
The three main categories of brain injury causes during delivery are insufficient oxygen, trauma to the head and diminished glucose. If oxygen to a baby is reduced during delivery, neurons die off and their contents enter the baby's brain; this causes the small brain to swell. The swelling in turn leads to reduced flow of blood to the brain, and this decreases oxygen levels even more. There are a number of physician errors which can start the cycle of insufficient oxygen, from improperly compressing the umbilical cord to not monitoring a mother's blood pressure after an epidural. Another possibility is the misdiagnosis of a serious infection before birth, leading to serious complications and brain injury.
Another physician error that can seriously compromise a baby's brain is incorrect use of forceps or extractors during delivery. These can cause trauma directly to the baby's head, thus causing brain injury. Not using these devices carefully can even cause a baby to experience a stroke. Finally, too little glucose in the baby's blood can also be a cause of newborn brain injuries. Reduced glucose can come about after a particularly prolonged and difficult labor; if an OB/GYN does not take the proper steps a drawn-out labor can culminate in dangerously low glucose levels in a newborn.
Brain injury in newborns is a complicated medical malpractice topic if parents suspect doctor error. The three main causes of baby brain injury can occur during the same birth, and thus it can be difficult to figure out what, exactly, went wrong and why.