This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatrician. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
For any content issues please Contact Us.
Infant brain damage symptoms range from mild to severe and include signs of cerebral palsy, seizures, cognitive impairments, and developmental delays. Sometimes, brain damage is mild and goes unnoticed, but in other cases, it is more severe and noticeable as soon as the infant is born.
How Does Infant Brain Damage Happen?
Infant brain damage can result from an acquired or a traumatic brain injury. A traumatic brain injury occurs when some physical force from the outside strikes or puts pressure on the head. This may occur in an infant during childbirth because of birth injuries.
For instance, the head may get stuck in the birth canal, or the doctor may use an instrument like forceps with too much force on the baby’s head.
Get Matched with a Leading Birth Injury Attorney in Your AreaGet Help Now
An acquired brain injury occurs internally, inside the skull or brain.
During childbirth, nearly half of all brain damage is caused by asphyxiation, when the brain is deprived of oxygen. This can occur because of an illness in the mother, complications with the umbilical cord or placenta, or when the baby’s head becomes stuck in the birth canal.
In some cases, the causes of brain damage are unforeseen. They may be accidents that could not be prevented.
However, there are also preventable accidents resulting from a medical caregiver’s negligence. In these instances, parents can consider filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the negligent party.
For example, if a doctor fails to recognize complications or order a Cesarean section, a resulting birth injury could be considered medical malpractice.
Other possible medical malpractice scenarios include a doctor misusing forceps, failure to diagnose correctly, or failure to monitor for fetal or maternal stress.
Immediate Infant Brain Damage Symptoms
Infant brain damage caused by complications of childbirth is not always immediately or easily recognized. The symptoms could be mild or delayed.
In cases of severe brain damage, symptoms are more likely to be recognized right after birth:
- Small head or skull
- Large forehead
- Malformed spine
- Stiffness in the neck
- Unusual or distorted facial features
- Abnormal eye movement
- Excessive crying
- Irritability or fussiness
- Difficulty sleeping or eating
Later Physical Symptoms of Brain Damage
When brain damage is less severe or does not cause immediate physical and behavioral symptoms, parents may start to notice later signs that a child has suffered brain damage. As an infant with brain damage gets older, they may develop sleeping disorders or sensitivity to light.
The baby may exhibit tremors or muscle spasms or even develop paralysis in certain parts of the body. Extreme fatigue can also be a sign of brain damage.
As a baby grows, brain damage may cause delayed physical development. A baby may be slow to crawl, sit up, stand up, and walk. A child might struggle to feed without assistance.
As a child grows older, they may struggle to learn and perform physical tasks like getting dressed, tying shoes, using writing instruments. They may have trouble reaching other physical and motor milestones.
Developmental and Cognitive Symptoms
A child may be spatially disoriented or have a higher pain sensitivity. The child may have difficulties concentrating and focusing, remembering things, or developing language and vocabulary.
Behavioral challenges may include impulse control or acting out. These can become more pronounced as a child goes to school and begins to interact with other children.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
A common condition resulting from brain damage during childbirth is cerebral palsy, which causes certain characteristic symptoms. Symptoms of cerebral palsy may indicate that a child has suffered brain damage during childbirth.
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of this condition and is characterized by:
- Tight, stiff muscles
- Abnormal walking gait
- Tight joints that won’t open up all the way
- Weak or paralyzed muscles
- Muscle spasms or tremors
Other symptoms of cerebral palsy include:
- Delays in reaching motor milestones
- Difficulty with fine motor skills
- Poor coordination,
- Scissoring legs
- Abnormal limb movements
- Floppy muscles and joints
- Learning disabilities
- Trouble speaking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Slow and writhing movements
- Vision and hearing loss
- Urinary and bowel incontinence
- Growth delays
Infant brain damage symptoms are varied and diverse. For some children, the signs may not even show up for months or years, or if they do may not be obvious enough to lead to a diagnosis.
If symptoms develop soon after birth, a doctor can diagnose brain damage by using imaging scans like CT scans or MRIs. These can show if there is traumatic damage.
If the damage is not clear, diagnosis is trickier. Monitoring for symptoms may be the only way to detect and diagnose brain damage.
If you see infant brain damage symptoms in your child after birth, you may want to determine if some type of medical malpractice caused them.
Negligence or medical malpractice, if proven, can lead to a settlement that may provide you and your child with compensation that will help pay for treatments, therapy, and rehabilitation.
If your child suffered brain damage during or shortly after childbirth, and you believe that medical malpractice played a role, you have the right to take legal action.
If you can show that the symptoms and complications of brain damage were caused by the actions (or inactions) of a medical caregiver, you could be eligible for compensation through a lawsuit.
- Hagberg, H., Edwards, A. D., & Groenendaal, F. (n.d.). Perinatal brain damage: The term infant. PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4915441/
- Intervention for infants with brain injury: Results of a randomized controlled study. (2006, January 29). PubMed Central (PMC). U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2700252/
- Traumatic brain injury - Symptoms and causes. (2019, March 29). Mayo Clinic.
Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20378557
- Perinatal infection, fetal inflammatory response, white matter damage, and cognitive limitations in children born preterm. (2002, February 28). Wiley Online Library.
Retrieved from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mrdd.10005
- Causes and Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy. (2019, September 23). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/causes.html
- A 15-minute scan could help diagnose brain damage in newborns. (2020, March 8). ScienceDaily.
Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181115104557.htm