Understanding Newborn Brain Damage: Causes and Treatment


When expectant mothers have complications during delivery, or their doctors suspect or diagnose their infants with birth defects, many parents fear that their babies will have brain damage. In many cases, pediatricians tell parents that it is too early to tell whether a newborn or toddler has suffered brain damage. Early diagnoses of brain damage in babies are rare because it is difficult to detect in early childhood. In some cases, however, the effects of brain damage will be apparent and result in an early diagnosis.

Among other causes, brain damage can result from medical mistakes made before or during birth. Diagnosing brain damage early and promptly intervening can help children with birth injuries to achieve better outcomes. There are early signs that a child might have suffered brain damage that parents can watch for so that they can bring it to their doctor’s attention.

In many cases, parents who think that their babies might have suffered birth injuries and brain damage learn that their fears are unfounded when their doctors perform tests, so bringing your concerns to your doctor’s attention might also help to alleviate your fears. However, if you do learn that your baby has suffered brain damage, getting an early diagnosis might greatly improve your child’s prognosis. If you learn that your child suffered a brain injury because of a medical provider’s negligence, you should talk to a birth trauma attorney at Raynes & Lawn.

Understanding Brain Damage in Infants

Damage to the brain can occur when brain cells are destroyed or damaged. Unfortunately, some infants suffer from permanent brain damage during delivery. Some of the causes of brain damage before, during, or following birth include the following:

  • Oxygen deprivation to the brain called hypoxia
  • Kernicterus or jaundice caused by a buildup of bilirubin
  • Head injuries while the baby travels through the birth canal
  • Bacterial or viral infections

Children who suffer mild brain damage might be able to completely recover. However, babies who suffer severe brain damage might be permanently disabled and require lifelong rehabilitation, medical treatment, and personal support. Severe damage to the brain can also result in other complications, including cerebral palsy.

If your baby suffered brain damage during your pregnancy, delivery, or after birth, you should speak with an experienced child injury lawyer for help with determining whether the injuries might have been caused by medical negligence. If your child suffered brain damage because of medical malpractice, you might be entitled to recover compensation to pay for all of the treatment and support your child might need.

Traumatic Brain Injuries in Infants

Infant brain injuries are among the most serious types of birth injuries that newborns might suffer. Brain damage is the most common cause of permanent physical disabilities and infant death. Infants can suffer brain injuries because of one of the following three things:

  • Birth defects
  • External trauma to the head during delivery
  • Oxygen deprivation during pregnancy or childbirth

When an infant suffers brain injuries, the damage is rarely diagnosed immediately even when children remain in the neonatal intensive care unit for a lengthy period. In many cases, infant brain injuries are not diagnosed until children turn ages one or two. Parents who are worried that their children might have suffered brain injuries during birth need to understand the symptoms to watch for.

Early Signs of Possible Brain Damage in Infants

Some of the early signs that an infant might have suffered brain damage are abnormalities that can be seen by looking at the baby. These types of physical signs of brain damage will only appear with certain brain injuries and include the following:

  • Forehead that is unusually large
  • Misshapen or twisted spine
  • Distorted or abnormal facial features
  • Microencephaly or head that is unusually small
  • Seizures
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Inability to focus and move the eyes

Newborns with brain injuries might also show the following issues:

  • Inability to sleep while lying down
  • Intense crying with an arched back
  • Issues with feeding
  • Failing to reach developmental milestones at the appropriate times

Developmental Delays as Symptoms of Brain Damage

The early signs of newborn brain damage might not be obvious. Some infants who have severe brain injuries might not show any of the early signs.

As babies grow, they normally reach developmental milestones at specific ages. The developmental milestones can be both physical and cognitive. It can be easier to identify possible brain damage in infants when they repeatedly fail to reach developmental milestones at the proper ages.

Some of the symptoms of brain damage in infants younger than six months include the following:

  • The baby’s neck is limp, and the infant cannot independently lift his or her head by age six months.
  • The baby has a lack of muscle tone and feels like a rag doll.
  • The baby cries with an arched back.

Some of the symptoms of brain damage in babies after six months include the following:

  • Inability to roll over by nine months
  • Inability to sit up independently
  • Inability to bring hands together
  • Trouble bringing the hands to the face
  • Abnormal posture
  • Consistent failure to meet other developmental milestones
  • Involuntary movements

Understanding How Brain Damage Occurs in Newborns

Infant brain injuries can happen because of complications in utero or during childbirth or because of birth defects. If the baby suffers brain damage during a traumatic birth, it is likely caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain.

Speak to an Experienced Child Injury Lawyer

If you have learned that your child suffered brain injuries in utero or during childbirth and believe that the injuries were caused by medical malpractice, you should contact Raynes & Lawn for a free consultation by calling (800) 535-1797.


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