In the USA, 7 in every 1000 children are born with a birth injury, according to childbirth injury statistics by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). A traumatic birth can have a devastating impact on the mother, the child, and the family unit. Three common types of birth injuries that are particularly distressing for mother and child include spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and brachial plexus injuries.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord birth injuries are injuries to the spinal cord of a new-born baby. According to the National Library of Medicine, neonatal spinal cord injuries are quite rare, occurring in around one out of every 29,000 births. These types of injuries can be caused by excessive pressure on the baby’s neck, head, and shoulders during labour and delivery. This pressure can cause damage to the network of nerves that make up the spine, leading to paralysis of the arms and legs.
Fortunately, most cases of spinal cord birth injuries can be prevented with proper prenatal care, careful monitoring during labour and delivery, and informed decision-making by the medical team. Pregnant women should receive regular check-ups throughout their pregnancy and be aware of potential risk factors such as a long or poorly managed labour, a large baby, or the hyperextended position of the baby’s head in the womb. During delivery, fetal heart rate monitoring can detect signs of distress that may indicate the need for an immediate C-section.
To reduce the risk of spinal cord birth injuries, doctors should be aware of their patient’s medical history and any potential risks that could increase the likelihood of a birth injury. Medical staff should also be mindful of the pressure they are applying to the baby’s neck and shoulders during labour, and if necessary, use special tools such as forceps or a vacuum to help with delivery. It is important that pregnant women understand the risks associated with birth injuries and discuss any concerns they may have with their medical team. With proper care and informed decision-making, most cases of spinal cord birth injuries can be prevented.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a physical disorder caused by an injury to the brain that affects movement and posture. It can lead to impaired muscle coordination, abnormal reflexes, spasticity, and difficulty with balance and walking. Symptoms usually become apparent in early childhood and may involve limited mobility or paralysis of certain muscles.
There are several factors that can increase the risk of CP, including premature birth, low birthweight, lack of oxygen during labour and delivery, maternal infection during pregnancy, and genetic disorders.
Although there is no way to prevent cerebral palsy altogether, there are steps that parents can take to help reduce the chances of their child developing it. These include regular prenatal care, avoiding exposure to toxins or infections, and proper management of pregnancy-related health conditions. Additionally, maintaining healthy habits such as not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet can help reduce the risk of developing CP.
It is also important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that they can seek medical attention if necessary. With early diagnosis, interventions can be put in place to improve the quality of life for those with CP.
Medical professionals also play an important role in helping families manage this neurological disorder. They can provide information about available treatments, resources, and support networks. Additionally, they can develop individualized plans that help children with CP reach their full potential. With the right support, those with CP can lead happy and productive lives.
Brachial Plexus Injury
A Brachial Plexus Injury (BPI) occurs when the nerves in the brachial plexus—the network of nerves that runs from the spine, through the neck and into the arm—are stretched or compressed. This can result in partial or complete paralysis of an arm, as well as numbness, pain, and weakness. It can occur during childbirth if the baby’s neck is stretched to the side during a difficult delivery.
The most effective way to prevent a BPI is to ensure that pregnant women receive adequate prenatal care. This includes regular hospital check-ups to monitor the mother and baby’s health, as well proper nutrition, and the avoidance of any risky activities. Additionally, as part of prenatal care, proper positioning should be practiced to help reduce the risk.
If a BPI does occur, more severe injuries will require care by specialists in neurosurgery, neurology, orthopaedic surgery, physical medicine & rehabilitation (PM&R), occupational therapy and physical therapy. Depending on the case, surgical treatments may be necessary as part of the recovery process. Physical and occupational therapies will help the infant regain strength and mobility. With proper medical care, most children can make a full or near-full recovery from a BPI.