Birth injuries are unfortunately common. In vaginal births, the baby is being pushed through a very narrow passageway, which can cause various injuries. When there are complications, infants may sustain trauma or suffer from oxygen deprivation. Although medical professionals are expected to respond to these situations in an appropriate manner, errors or negligence can allow injuries to occur or can even cause further trauma to an infant’s brain or body. Birth injury prognosis can vary greatly depending on the type of injury sustained, how early the condition or injury was diagnosed, and how well the infant responds to the treatment that is given.
Birth Injury Prognosis by Type
The prognosis for birth injuries such as body fractures and lacerations is typically a full recovery when the injuries are addressed and treated quickly. Lacerations incurred during birth may become infected, so physicians will check the baby and clean the wounds frequently to prevent infections. When fractures involve the skull or bones which are close to vital organs, the prognosis may change according to how quickly the injury is noticed and treated. The prognosis for each type of birth injury is highly dependent on the details of the individual case, but similar birth injuries share commonalities in prognosis.
Brachial Plexus Injury Prognosis
Brachial plexus injuries are injuries to the nerves that run through the upper spine, shoulders, arms, hands, and neck. Mild injuries to these nerves can cause temporary paralysis to different body areas, while severe injuries can be permanent. About 10 percent of brachial plexus injuries cause a permanent disability. In rare cases, the nerve roots become completely separated from the spine and complete paralysis results.
Brain Injury Prognosis
Brain injuries can cause conditions such as cerebral palsy in infants. Cerebral palsy is incurable, but treatment may help children to improve mobility and cognitive abilities. Cerebral palsy may vary in intensity, with some sufferers being able to communicate and move and others requiring 24 hour assistance and suffering significant cognitive deficits. Brain injuries may reduce life expectancy.
Cephalohematomas occur when the veins in the top of an infant’s scalp are ruptured during childbirth. The blood pools on top of the skull and beneath the skin, creating swelling that is soft to the touch. Cephalohematomas are often caused by the improper use of forceps during delivery, as it does not take much pressure to rupture the veins in the scalp. The birth injury prognosis for cephalohematomas are typically optimistic. Babies are usually able to make a full recovery after the blood is absorbed back into the body.
Facial Paralysis Prognosis
Facial paralysis occurs when the facial nerve is damaged during labor, either by the improper use of tools or naturally on the way through the birth canal. In most cases, facial paralysis is temporary and the baby will gain control over the facial muscles over time as the nerve heals. In some cases, however, the facial nerve suffers extreme damage or does not heal properly and facial paralysis is permanent.
Perinatal Asphyxia Prognosis
Perinatal asphyxia is caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood, which can be a result of insufficient blood flow to the infant because of umbilical cord complications or other complications. The amount of damage that is sustained from perinatal asphyxia is heavily dependent upon how quickly the oxygen supply is reintroduced and will dictate the prognosis. Perinatal asphyxia can cause seizures, coma, shock, or even permanent neurological damage.
Birth Injury Prognosis with Early Treatment
Early treatment can help infants make a full recovery from many types of birth injuries. Injuries in which there was oxygen deprivation or brain damage may not be curable, but early treatment can greatly improve the quality of life in many cases. It is important for parents and physicians to be alert for birth injury symptoms so that birth injuries can be diagnosed and treated early.
Birth Injury Prognosis with Delayed Treatment
Delayed birth injury diagnosis can allow birth injuries to evolve into more serious conditions in some cases. Birth injury prognosis is typically less optimistic when treatment is delayed due to a delayed diagnosis. If treatment is delayed due to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, victims may be entitled to compensation by the medical professional or facility that failed to recognize signs of birth injury.
“Birth Injury.” Merck Manuals. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/childrens_health_issues/problems_in_newborns/birth_injury.html>
“Birth Injury.” Stanford Children’s Health. Stanford Children’s Health, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=birth-injury-90-P02340>
“NINDS Erb-Duchenne and Dejerine-Klumpke Palsies Information Page.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brachial_plexus_birth/brachial_plexus_birth.htm>