Living with a birth injury can be difficult for patients and family members. Depending on the severity and the type of birth injury, the infant and family may be affected for life. Many birth injuries affect nearly all areas of a patient’s life, including development and interaction with family and others. This can dramatically alter expectations and make it more difficult for families to uphold a high quality of life.
Living with Temporary Birth Injuries
Temporary birth injuries such as subgaleal hematoma, cephalhematoma, congenital torticullis, and certain types of nerve and bone injuries may be treatable or may heal without treatment. However, even if treatment is not needed, medical facilities will typically request that the baby be held for an extended period of time for observation. This may cause parents to lose wages and can result in unexpected medical bills. In some cases, babies may also need to come back for subsequent visits, surgery, and therapy.
Birth Injury Physical Limitations
Birth injuries can hinder mobility and physical development. Injuries to the spinal cord or brachial plexus can cause paralysis of varying degrees in different areas of the body, which can affect a patient’s lifelong ability to walk and function independently. Conditions stemming from brain injuries and oxygen deprivation, such as cerebral palsy, may affect fine motor skills and coordination. Cerebral palsy and paralysis may also affect the patient’s ability to breathe, speak, and eat.
Birth Injury Home Needs
Home needs may vary widely depending on the limitations of the birth injury. Children that have mobility limitations may need wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs, and other mobility aids. Children that have intellectual or cognitive disabilities may need constant supervision and assistance with many daily tasks. Children that have breathing or seizure disorders may need medications and treatments. Family members may also have to make special accommodations for children with developmental or cognitive impairments, such as keeping harmful chemicals and breakable items out of reach.
Birth Injury Financial Difficulties
Birth injuries can cause families to suffer financial difficulties. Parents may have to alter careers and structure daily routines around treatments and therapies, which can cause a decrease in income level and earning ability. Parents may also have to pay for costly treatments, medications, medical equipment, and therapy. In some cases, parents may have to make difficult decisions regarding care and living arrangements, which can alter the quality of treatment or the quality of life.
Specialized Education Needs
Children with birth injuries often require specialized education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was put in place to make sure that all children with disabilities have access to special education and early intervention services that may be helpful in learning. For children with disabilities, the Individualized Education Plan ensures that each child has a plan in place to help achieve goals. Children may be assigned to smaller classes, individual tutoring, or may be given special accommodations throughout the curriculum in order to make learning more practical based on the child’s abilities.
Birth injuries and conditions stemming from birth injuries can make a child stand out from peers, which can have an effect on the child’s confidence and comfort in interacting with others. While bullying is discouraged and is more heavily monitored now than in the past, children may still feel shunned. Limited social and communication skills may also hinder interactions. If children are not making friends through school, it may be helpful to attend outside functions in order to encourage children to form connections.
Time Consuming Needs
In addition to the lifestyle changes and financial needs that result from birth injuries, birth injuries also require patients and family to spend a lot of time on care needs. Doctor visits, therapy sessions, treatments, and specialized education needs may all take a huge amount of time from patients’ and caregivers’ lives. These time consuming needs may make it more difficult for patients and family members to participate in enjoyable family activities, which can have an impact on the quality of life.
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“Erb’s Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy).” OrthoInfo. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00077>
“Life for a Child with a Birth Injury.” Birth Injury Guide. Birth Injury Guide, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://www.birthinjuryguide.org/birth-injury/life/>