A brain hemorrhage is a rare but serious medical condition found in newborns. 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 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.
Finding what causes infant brain bleeding in a specific case can determine whether or not a family may be entitled to financial compensation; which is where the attorneys at Birth Injury Lawyers Group can help.
For a free legal consultation, call 1-800-222-9529
Assistive Birth Devices
Before 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 medical instruments that resemble 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 the 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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Where Can an Infant Brain Hemorrhage Occur?
Several types of bleeding can occur in your baby’s brain. Bleeding can also occur in several areas of your baby’s brain. Determining what causes infant brain bleeding 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 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.
Can Infant Brain Bleeds Occur Before Birth?
Pre-existing conditions of the mother can influence your baby’s health throughout pregnancy and birth. According to the National Institute of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, mothers with blood pressure-related medical conditions are at higher risk for pregnancy or birth complications.
In addition, babies whose mothers suffer from one or more of these medical conditions are at a higher risk for fetal stroke. Fetal strokes can cause medium to severe brain damage leading to brain bleeds, lack of oxygen, or ruptured blood vessels.
Other causes of fetal brain bleeds can happen in unborn babies because of low birth weights or premature births. Approximately 15% of babies with premature births born before 37 weeks of pregnancy will suffer a brain bleed or develop cerebral palsy.
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What Can Cause Brain Bleeds In Babies at Birth?
A rupture of blood vessels causes brain bleeds in babies at birth. This rupture can result from a severe illness, high blood pressure, a blood clot, lack of oxygen, or a birth injury caused by pressure on your baby’s skull.
A lack of oxygen in the brain during labor and delivery can be common for a brief moment due to the stress of childbirth. However, lack of oxygen, or birth asphyxia, can increase the risk of developmental delays and severe brain damage.
Your child’s brain bleed might result from 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. If the doctor was the cause, Birth Injury Lawyers Group can help to ensure you’re compensated.
Babies at Risk for Infant Brain Bleeds
According to the overview of Intraventricular Hemorrhage in Babies provided by Cedars Sinai, it is unclear What causes infant brain bleeding in preterm infants and healthy full-term babies. However, there are signs doctors and parents can watch out for to determine if their newborn could be at risk for developing a brain bleed or other life-threatening complications.
Some babies have a higher risk of developing a brain bleed. The following babies may be more susceptible to preterm and infant brain bleeds including:
- Preterm infants
- Babies with a low APGAR score
- Babies with a low birth weight
- Labor and childbirth complications
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Shaken baby syndrome
- Pre-existing conditions of the mother
- Blood clots
- High blood pressure
- Low blood pressure
- Head injuries
Premature Babies are More Suceptible to Brain Bleeds
Preterm infants are at a greater risk of suffering from a brain bleed than full-term babies. Premature infants often have complex medical issues that can result in problems with their developing brains.
Approximately 12,000 premature infants will develop a brain bleed after birth in America. 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 premature infants 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 is 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 to understand what caused your baby’s brain bleed at birth.
To find out for certain if an intracranial hemorrhage 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 an 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.
Medical Treatments for Infant Brain Bleeds
Brain bleeds are most likely to occur in preterm infants during birth or the first few days of life. They can also happen to healthy babies born without injury or other difficulties. However, the smaller the baby, the more likely they will be at risk for brain bleeds and other neurological and intellectual disabilities.
There is no treatment for infant brain bleeds. Doctors will identify the brain bleed, find out the cause of the infant brain bleeding, and stabilize. However, medical treatments like blood transfusions may occur if the baby loses blood quickly.
Several Types of Brain Bleeds Exist
Premature infants are highly susceptible to a 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 brain bleed. Additional types of brain bleeds 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 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.
How Apnea Can Affect Your Newborn
According to Johns Hopkins, apnea is a condition that often occurs in newborns and causes temporary pauses in breathing. Premature infants 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.
Your newborn may suffer 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 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 is a Brachial Plexus Injury?
Your baby’s brachial plexus is a network of nerves that control the 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 labor, delivery, and birth. Typically, only the arm and hand on one side of your baby’s body will be affected.
Recovering Compensation for an Infant Brain Bleed
If your child was born with a brain bleed, you may qualify to file an insurance claim or lawsuit to help you hold the right person or entity responsible for their role 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 baby with serious health consequences. Understanding the main causes of infant brain bleeds 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 your infant’s injury, an attorney can help you assign liability and seek compensation from the right party. Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to schedule an evaluation of your case with an attorney near you today.