Young man holds newborn baby in hospital

A birth injury may result in infant brain damage that can range from mild to severe.

Infant Brain Damage: Overview

Infant brain damage occurs whenever a newborn’s brain is injured. Lack of oxygen during birth is a leading cause of infant brain damage, according to UCLA Health. Breach delivery, placenta problems, and umbilical cord can all lead to lack of oxygen in newborns.

Other causes of infant brain damage include prematurity—when an infant is delivered earlier than 37 weeks. Premature infants have not had enough time to develop in the womb, resulting in underdeveloped organs and other health problems.

Infant brain injuries may also occur as a result of problems during pregnancy.

Because infants cannot speak, infant brain damage can be hard to recognize. Brain damage symptoms can include signs of the following:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Seizures
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Developmental delays
  • Other symptoms

The Mayo Clinic recommends that parents seek medical attention for their child if their child exhibits any signs of brain damage or injury

Is Cerebral Palsy a form of Infant Brain Damage?

One of the more common types of brain damage suffered during birth is cerebral palsy. This condition describes a group of disorders affecting the brain and nervous system.

This condition impairs a range of bodily functions including:

  • Movement
  • Cognition
  • Sight
  • Hearing

Cerebral palsy can range from mild to severe, with mild cases causing minor impairments to severe cases causing complete muscle paralysis.

Cerebral palsy may be caused by:

  • Brain trauma
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Toxins in the brain
  • Umbilical cord problems
  • Placental abruption
  • Uterine rupture

Up to 90% of cases result from injury that occurs before or during birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many of the cases of cerebral palsy that occur during birth are caused by medical mistakes or malpractice. They can often be avoided if medical professionals are able to correctly follow standards of care for birth cases.

What is Spastic Cerebral Palsy?

Newborn baby in ICU with possible cerebral palsy symptoms.Spastic cerebral palsy occurs when muscles tighten and the stiffness causes muscles to spasm. According to the March of Dimes, nearly 80% of all cases of cerebral palsy are of the spastic variety that cause problems with bodily movement. Most cases are diagnosed by the time the child is 2 years of age.

Spastic cerebral palsy may occur as one of three presentations:

Spastic diplegia causes muscle stiffness of the legs. The child may experience tightness in the muscles of the hips and legs, which cause the legs to turn inward. Severe cases may cause legs to cross at the knees, a condition known as scissoring. A walker or leg braces may be required to assist the child with mobility issues.

Spastic hemiplegia causes one side of the body to suffer muscle development issues, which may result in one arm or leg growing shorter and/or skinnier than the arm or leg on the other side of the body. A late onset of beginning to walk or walking on their tip-toes may be a sign of spastic hemiplegia, which also may cause scoliosis (curvature of the spine), speech issues or episodes of seizures.

The third type of spastic cerebral palsy is spastic quadriplegia, which is the most serious variation because nearly the entire body may be affected, including the limbs, the torso and even the face. Due to the severity of muscle debilitation, children with spastic quadriplegia are most often confined to a wheelchair and suffer from poor intellectual development, seizures and speaking impairments.

What are Other Infant Birth Injuries?

Birth injuries can take many forms other than brain damage. Nerve injuries in the shoulder are common birth injuries. These injuries can occur during difficult births or when a baby has to be forcefully removed from the mother’s body.

Improperly pulling or twisting a baby during delivery can damage the nerves in a baby’s shoulder. In other cases, misusing medical devices during delivery like vacuum extraction tools and forceps can cause damage to nerves, often in the shoulder.

Conditions that can be caused by damage to nerves in the shoulder include, among others:

Some cases of birth injuries like shoulder injuries can be temporary and can heal over time; however, some shoulder injuries require surgical intervention. Full recovery may never be possible. 

In many cases, injuries suffered during birth can be lifelong and can require medical care throughout a person’s life to manage. These conditions can be costly and can impair a person’s quality of life.

Is Infant Brain Damage Caused by Medical Malpractice?

In some cases, medical malpractice before or during birth can cause a child to develop infant brain damage or other injury. When a birth is difficult, sometimes a birth injury can result from natural causes or because of medical intervention during birth.

Although some birth injuries are unavoidable, others may be linked to poor decision making by doctors. Parents may not know if their baby’s injury was unavoidable, or if it was the cause of medical malpractice and could have been avoided. A legal professional may be able to help.

Taking legal action for medical malpractice can help parents recover compensation for their child’s injuries. A birth injury settlement could help provide care for an injured child for years to come. For example, a New Jersey medical center recently agreed to pay $2.75 million to resolve medical malpractice claims surrounding infant brain damage.

A birth injury lawyer has access to medical experts who will be able to help you determine what caused your child’s brain damage and if your child may be able to obtain compensation to pay for medical costs and other financial burdens caused by the injury.

Fill out the form on this page for more information or call (800) Baby Law (1-800-222-9529).

Do YOU have a legal claim? Fill out the form on this page now for a free, immediate, and confidential case evaluation.

The cerebral palsy attorneys who work with Top Class Actions will contact you if you qualify to let you know if an individual birth injury lawsuit or class action lawsuit is best for you.

Hurry — statutes of limitations may apply.


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We at Top Class Actions are not attorneys, but by filling out the form on this page, we will connect you to a birth injury attorney with years of experience with complex birth injury cases.

If your child was injured at birth, you may have a legal claim. Submit your information now for a free case evaluation.

A birth injury attorney will contact you if you qualify to discuss the details of your potential case at no charge to you.

  • The law firm responsible for the content of this page is: Goldwater Law Firm
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