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See also Cerebral Palsy
Quick link to the information of your choice on Birth Injury:
What is a Birth Injury?
- Birth Injury is a damage caused before, during or after the delivery of an infant that affects the baby with a temporary injury or a permanent disability. Some birth injuries may heal in a few days without problems, such as slight bruising or swelling of the soft tissues of the babys scalp, face, eyes, shoulders, or bone fractures from traveling down the birth canal and encountering difficulties. Some injuries if more severe, however, can cause brachial plexus injury, brain damage or cerebral palsy.
- Birth Injury Glossary A helpful glossary of common terms and phrases used when discussing birth injuries from ABC Law.
What are the causes of Birth Injuries?
- Many newborns experience minor injuries from the birthing process, with swelling or bruising only in certain areas.
- If the birth canal is too small or the baby is too large, or the baby is in an abnormal position to be delivered a newborn can sustain a more serious birth injury. There are also other causes for birth injury: mother's pelvic disproportioned, difficult or prolonged labor, prematurity of the baby, abnormal birthing presentation, such as breech (buttocks first), forceps or vacuum extraction can cause injury, problems during cesarian section
- Brachial plexus injury caused by the stretching of the head from the shoulder that causes injury to the brachial plexus nerves to the arm and hand. This injury is often caused by the baby becoming stuck during delivery. There are many risk factors that may contribute to this incidence. Erbs Palsy is one of a group of Brachial Plexus injuries, which include Brachial Plexus Palsy, Klumpke's Palsy and Shoulder Dystocia.
Visit these information articles:
Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy) by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons that provides information on the Anatomy, Description, Cause, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Living with Erb's Palsy.
- Brachial plexus injury in newborns Definition, Causes, Incidence, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Signs, Tests, Treatment, Prognosis, Complications, Prevention of Brachial Palsy
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is an interruption or a lack of oxygen to the brain. The best prevention is monitoring of the fetus to make sure that it is not in distress.
- Causes for cerebral palsy prior to birth, during birth, and in the first few months of infancy include lack of oxygen to the brain, brain hemorrhaging (bleeding), and head injury. Other causes are exposure to toxic substances, diabetes or measles virus in the mother (prenatal), or jaundice (postnatal).
- Injuries to the baby's head from forceps, broken bones or inutero infection
- Injury to the baby's spine from overstretching are very rare, but can cause permanent damage.
- Caput succedaneum is the swelling of the scalp of an infant from the pressure of head first delivery. Jaundice may occur.
- Cephalohematoma is a collection of blood under the periosteum, the tissue that encapsulates the bone.
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage is bleeding underneath the conjunctiva of the eye.
- Forceps lacerations and bruising
- Facial paralysis
- Brachial plexus injury causes a paralysis of one or both arms. This information is derived from Birth Injury
- Cerebral palsy - See our NHU page on Information about Cerebral Palsy
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What are the characteristics of Birth Injuries?
Depending on the cause and the type of birth injury, the infant may or may not experience the following symptoms:
- Burning or tingling
- Muscle weakness
- Sensitivity to touch
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities offers the article, Learn the Signs, Act Early, which explains what to look for in developmental milestones in regard to controlling head, arm, leg, hand and body muscles in the developing infant.
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What are the statistics regarding Birth Injuries?
- 28,000 incidences of birth injury per year or 7 in 1,000 births. For more information consult this statistics page from this website: Wrong Diagnosis
- "It has been estimated that, for every 1000 babies born in the U.S., five will be injured during birth and the type of birth injury can vary, ranging from temporary bone fractures, bleeding and bruising, to cerebral palsy and even permanent brain damage." ....Brachial plexus injuries occur in approximately 1 in 2,000 births, but only about 10 percent of these babies need treatment; most heal on their own. Early evaluation (within the first one to two months of life) is important to determine whether therapy or surgery is required." This information is from Birth Injuries.net (link no longer available)
- Statistics by country from Right Diagnosis.com
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Although one cannot always prevent injury, there are known ways to prevent injury to newborns.
Parents and doctors must remain diligent during the birth process.
- Avoid difficult or premature delivery of newborns.
- Healthy pregnancy, healthy baby programs help avoid difficult or premature delivery and low birth weight.
"America's health care system is in crisis precisely because we systematically neglect wellness and prevention." - U.S. Senator, Retired, Tom Harkin
- Read our NHU Report on the Prevention of Disabilities - Spring 2015
Read about the rising prevalence of developmental disabilities, the impact of developmental disabilities and the need for data for research. ----We all know to move forward on any problem facing mankind requires research. We are stating, in order to protect children of the future, newborns, their parents and society from disabilities, we should broaden the scope of data collected through the U.S. Standard Certificate of Live Birth. This update to our existing data system would be more easily adopted and is necessary to more effectively meet current research needs for the purpose of preventing disabilities. Existing data collected is vague and not in sync with the rapid advances in medicine for today.
- Although medical science, doctors and parents do everything they can to bring healthy babies into the world, birth and brain injury do still occur.
People are more alike than they are different.
- Identify and develop an appreciation for each persons strengths and accomplishments.
- Become aware of the affect on daily activities.
- People First Language from disabilityisnatural.com by Kathie Snow offers insight into society's use of language when using the term disability. The term disability is a societal construct to identify characteristics related to a medical condition that may entitle an individual for services or legal protections. The use of this language encourages freedom, respect and inclusion for all, and recognizes forms of language that can isolate, create negative stereotypes and place attitudinal barriers for individuals. "Using People First Language, putting the person before the disability—and eliminating old, prejudicial, and hurtful descriptors, can move us in a new direction. People First Language is not political correctness; instead, it demonstrates good manners, respect, the Golden Rule, and more—it can change the way we see a person, and it can change the way a person sees themself!" For more articles by Kathie Snow to "help us begin to use more respectful and accurate language and create positive change," visit People First Language and More
- Depending on the injury or the body part involved with injury, there is no correlation between physical disability and aptitude. People who have birth injury may lead normal lives.
- Although one may have an impairment, one may not have a disability (have difficulty performing a daily living task) or may not be handicapped (because of disability, unable to achieve normal role in society).
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Needs and Solutions
- Surgery to improve or restore nerve function
- Evaluating Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries from Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Injury Center, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburg. This article describes the brachial plexus and resultant upper extremity injury due to a difficult birth as one of the most common injuries during the birthing process. The article discusses the Anatomy of the Injury, Examination and Diagnosis, Surgical Intervention, Recovery and Outcomes.
- See our NHU resource pages on Health and Care and Therapy and Rehabilitation
Learn More Information
Organizations and websites that provide information about Birth Injury.
- Birth Injury.org website is sponsored by the Midwest Brachial Plexus Network, Inc. You will find complete information about brachial plexus injury, available treatments, legal information, articles, FAQ and support services at this website.
- Birth Injury Information Although this website is for the attorney Dov Apfel there is this section on information which offers discussions on every type of birth injury.
- Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford offers information on high risk pregnancy and the high risk newborn, Birth Injury: Problems Resulting from the Birth Process - causes and types of trauma, Common Conditions and Complications: such as premature, low birthweight, too small or large, Breastfeeding the high risk newboarn, Parenting in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Taking Your Baby Home and many online resources. For more information, contact them by phone at (888) ASK-LPCH (275-5724) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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[Updated May 31, 2017]
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