A brain hemorrhage is a rare but serious medical condition found in newborns. According to Medline Plus, the main causes of infant brain hemorrhages are a rupture of the veins in your baby’s brain causing blood to accumulate under their scalp. A brain hemorrhage can lead to serious complications including temporary or permanent brain damage.
Bleeding in and around your baby’s brain can be caused by a rupturing of blood vessels brought on by a birth injury, clotting issue, or significant illness. A brain hemorrhage, or subgaleal hemorrhage, can often be caused by a difficult, prolonged, or premature labor and delivery. A brain hemorrhage is also more likely to occur following instrumental delivery such as the use of vacuum extractors and other assistive birth devices.
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Assistive Birth Devices
Prior to using assistive delivery techniques, your doctor might recommend a C-section delivery or the use of specific medications to encourage your labor to progress. There are two types of assistive birth devices your doctor might choose to employ.
- Forceps Delivery – during a vaginal delivery, your doctor may use forceps to deliver your newborn if your labor is not progressing as it should. Forceps are a medical instrument that resembles a large pair of spoons or salad tongs. They help guide your baby’s head through the birth canal. Forceps are usually employed as you push during a contraction.
- Vacuum Extraction – during a vacuum extraction, your physician will use a vacuum device to assist your baby through the birth canal. The vacuum extractor is a medical instrument with a cup that can be either soft or rigid. The cup suctions as you push through a contraction. Your doctor may choose a vacuum extraction if your labor slows, stalls, or stops.
The Risks of Instrument Assisted Deliveries
Deliveries that use assistive instruments have certain risk factors. During a forceps delivery, your newborn is at risk of receiving minor facial injuries, temporary facial palsy, skull fractures, seizures, and bleeding in their skull. Similarly, during a vacuum extraction, your baby is at risk of suffering scalp wounds, shoulder dystocia, skull fractures, and bleeding in their skull.
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Your newborn may suffer from shoulder dystocia when their head emerges from the birth canal, but their shoulders become stuck which can require additional maneuvering to facilitate your baby’s delivery. According to a study published in the Journal of Prenatal Medicine, shoulder dystocia occurs most often in larger than usual infants. It can lead to fractures in your baby’s collarbone, fractures to their upper arm, or a brachial plexus injury. It can also lead to brain damage and in some cases might prove fatal.
What a Brachial Plexus Injury Is
Your baby’s brachial plexus is a network of nerves that control their spinal cord, shoulder, arm, and hand. A brachial plexus injury happens when this system of nerves is stretched, compressed, or torn away from the spinal cord. Infants sometimes suffer brachial plexus injuries during their labor, delivery, and birth. Typically, only the arm and hand on one side of your baby’s body will be affected.
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The Part of the Brain an Infant Brain Hemorrhage Occurs In
There are several types of bleeding that can occur in your baby’s brain. Bleeding can also occur in several areas of your baby’s brain. The main causes of infant brain hemorrhages might vary slightly according to brain hemorrhage type.
- In a subarachnoid hemorrhage, bleeding occurs below the innermost membranes that cover your baby’s brain. This is the most common type of brain hemorrhage in newborns and can cause apnea, seizures, or lethargy in the first few days of life.
- In a subdural hemorrhage, bleeding occurs between the inner and outer layers of the covering of your baby’s brain. This type of brain hemorrhage puts increased pressure on the surface of your infant’s brain and can cause your son or daughter to develop a seizure disorder.
- In an epidural hematoma, bleeding occurs between the outer layer of tissue covering your baby’s brain and their skull. An epidural hematoma can be caused by a skull fracture and might cause your baby’s soft spot to bulge. Newborns who suffer from an epidural hematoma may exhibit apnea and seizures.
If your newborn is the victim of a birth injury, they will be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit for close monitoring, supportive care, and other medical treatments that can help them maintain body function.
What Can Cause Brain Bleeds In Babies At Birth?
A rupture of blood vessels causes brain bleeds in babies at birth. This rupture can be the result of a serious illness, a blood clotting problem, or a birth injury caused by pressure on your baby’s skull. Your child’s brain bleed might be the result of forceps or vacuum extractors used during delivery, your baby becoming stuck in the birth canal, or another type of injury sustained during labor and delivery.
PREMATURE BABIES ARE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO BRAIN BLEEDS
Babies who are born prematurely are at a greater risk of suffering from a brain bleed than full-term babies. Premature newborns often have complex medical issues that can result in problems with their developing brains.
The earlier a baby is born, the greater their risk of having a brain bleed. These brain bleeds are known as intraventricular hemorrhages. Some newborns will have a very mild intraventricular hemorrhage which will resolve with no long-term effects. This is known as a Grade 1 or Grade 2 hemorrhage.
Some newborns will suffer from larger brain bleeds—Grade 3 or Grade 4—that can cause permanent brain injury. Your physician should take steps to monitor your pregnancy and avoid premature delivery if at all possible.
How a Doctor Determines a Brain Bleed Is Present
You or your doctor might suspect your newborn suffering from a brain bleed if you notice certain symptoms in your child. Those symptoms can include excessive sleepiness, apnea, the onset of seizures, and a bluish-gray discoloration of your baby’s skin. When you notice these symptoms, you deserve an accurate diagnosis and to understand what caused the brain to bleed in your baby at birth.
To find out for certain if a brain bleed is the cause of your baby’s symptoms, your doctor or another medical specialist will conduct tests to reach a conclusive diagnosis. Testing on your baby will include imaging exams like an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create a detailed image of your baby’s brain and a CT scan (computerized tomography scan) that uses a series of X-ray images and computer images to create detailed, cross-sectioned images of your baby’s brain.
How Apnea Can Affect Your Newborn
When most people hear the term apnea, they automatically think of sleep apnea where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during the sleep cycle. According to Johns Hopkins, apnea is a condition that often occurs in newborns and causes temporary pauses in breathing. Premature newborns are more likely to suffer from apnea than full-term babies.
Apnea is caused by an immaturity of your newborn’s brain and a weakness in the muscles that keep your baby’s airway open. In some cases, added stresses like infections, heart or lung conditions, low blood count and oxygen levels, and overstimulation can cause apnea to worsen.
Several Types of Brain Bleeds Exist
Premature infants are highly susceptible to a type of brain bleed called intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding into the fluid-filled ventricles in your baby’s brain). Although unusual, full-term babies might also suffer from this type of brain bleed. Additional types of brain bleed in babies at birth include:
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage – bleeding below the innermost membrane that covers your newborn’s brain
- Subdural hemorrhage – bleeding between the outer and inner layers of the covering of your newborn’s brain
- Epidural hematoma – bleeding between the outer layer of tissue covering your baby’s brain and skull
The medical team who reaches the final diagnosis of your child’s condition will be able to tell you the exact type of brain bleed your infant has and its cause. They will also be able to help you determine the grade and the effects the brain bleed may have on your baby.
RECOVERING COMPENSATION FOR A BRAIN BLEED
If your son or daughter was born with a brain bleed, you may qualify to file an insurance claim or lawsuit that will help you hold the right person or entity responsible for the role they played in your child’s birth injury and brain bleed. Your pediatrician or another medical professional can also help you understand what causes brain bleeds in babies at birth. Your attorney can help you understand the legal options you have available to help recoup the cost of your child’s medical care.
Birth Injury Lawsuit for an Infant Hemorrhage
An infant brain hemorrhage can leave your son or daughter with serious health consequences. Understanding the main causes of infant brain hemorrhages can help you understand your baby’s diagnosis and prognosis. It can also help you and your attorney understand who might be at fault for the birth injury that led to your child’s current condition.
When you are ready to seek financial compensation for the injury your infant suffered, an attorney can help you assign liability and seek compensation form the right party. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to schedule an evaluation of your case with an attorney near you today.