Infant Brain Damage Symptoms
This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatrician. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
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Infant brain damage symptoms range from mild to severe and can include signs of cerebral palsy, seizures, or cognitive impairments and developmental delays, among many others. Sometimes the brain damage is mild and goes unnoticed, and in other cases, it’s more serious and obvious as soon as the infant is born. Brain damage can be caused by a number of factors that occur during childbirth, from asphyxia to physical trauma.
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 sue. If you can show that the symptoms and complications of brain damage, which your child will face indefinitely, were caused by the actions (or inactions) of a medical caregiver, you could be eligible for compensation through a lawsuit or settlement.
How Does Infant Brain Damage Happen?
Infant brain damage may be the result of 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. The head may get stuck in the birth canal, for instance, or the doctor may use an instrument like forceps with too much force on the baby’s head.
An acquired brain injury occurs when something happens 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, when there are 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, these can also be preventable accidents that are the result of a medical caregiver’s negligence. If a doctor fails to recognize complications and to call for a Cesarean section, if the doctor uses too much force with forceps, or if a doctor or midwife does not notice that the child is being deprived of oxygen during birth, the resulting brain damage could be due to negligence.
Immediate Infant Brain Damage Symptoms
Brain damage in infants that is caused by complications of childbirth is not always immediately or easily recognized. The symptoms may be mild or delayed. In some cases, though, usually in those cases of more severe brain damage, the symptoms are more likely to be recognized right after birth. These include physical symptoms like a small head or skull, a large forehead, a spine that is malformed, stiffness in the neck, unusual or distorted facial features, and abnormal eye movement.
Other early symptoms of brain damage include having seizures. An infant may also display certain behavioral symptoms of brain damage like excessive crying, unusual irritability or fussiness, difficulty sleeping or eating, and other signs of general discomfort that have no other explanation or obvious cause.
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 it may develop sleeping disorders or sensitivity to light. It may exhibit tremors or muscle spasms. It may even develop paralysis in certain parts of the body. Fatigue that seems extreme can also be a sign of brain damage.
As a baby grows into a toddler, brain damage may cause difficulty with physical development. A baby may be slow to crawl, sit up, stand up, and walk. Feeding may be difficult for a child to do alone. As a child grows older it may struggle to learn and perform physical tasks like getting dressed, tying shoes, using writing instruments, and may have trouble reaching other physical and motor milestones.
Developmental and Cognitive Symptoms
Brain damage in an infant may also manifest as mental, behavioral, and emotional developmental issues or delays. A child may be spatially disoriented or have a higher sensitivity to pain. The child may have difficulties with concentration 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 that results 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, an abnormal walking gait, tight joints that won’t open up all the way, weak or paralyzed muscles, and 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, seizures, drooling, urinary and bowel incontinence, and 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 there are symptoms that 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.