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Birth injuries range from brain damage that can cause cerebral palsy, nerve damage that causes brachial plexus and Erb’s palsy to skull fractures, and, tragically, infant death. The prognosis for any birth injury depends on several factors: the type of injury, the severity of the injury, how soon it was diagnosed and treated, and others related to the individual baby and family. For most children, the prognosis is good with early diagnosis, interventions, and treatment.
The Prognosis for Brain Damage
Brain damage during childbirth is most often caused by asphyxiation, and the most common result of this brain damage is cerebral palsy. The prognosis for this and other types of brain damage can vary a lot, depending on individual circumstances.
The most important factor in prognosis is the severity of the damage. For instance, a child deprived of oxygen for several minutes during birth may end up with severe cerebral palsy, while a baby that received mild brain damage may only have mild developmental delays.
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Mild and moderate brain damage during birth usually comes with a hopeful prognosis. A child will have challenges and can live a long and meaningful life with good care and treatment. Many babies born with brain damage and cerebral palsy go on to live independently, and many don’t even have any cognitive impairment.
Some of the more common long-term consequences of infant brain damage, in addition to or along with cerebral palsy, are seizure disorders, behavioral disorders, mobility issues, declines in cognition, spastic muscles, hearing and vision problems, and impaired gross or fine motor skills.
Even with these added challenges, many children with brain damage can live normal lives. What makes a difference in the lives of these children is the care they receive, especially early interventions and adaptations for daily living.
Nerve Damage Prognosis
Nerve damage, especially to the brachial plexus, is relatively common in newborns. The good news is that the prognosis for most babies with this kind of damage is favorable. Most babies with damaged nerves that control the arm will recover fully, some with treatment or therapy, others naturally with no intervention.
For those with more severe damage, the prognosis may be that a child will live with Erb’s palsy indefinitely. Erb’s palsy results from damage to the brachial plexus nerves, which connect the spinal cord to the arm. The lasting symptoms a child with Erb’s palsy may experience include loss of sensation and paralysis in one or more parts of an arm. The symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe.
Skull Fracture Prognosis
Infant skull fractures occur due to a variety of reasons. The most common of these is the use of instruments during delivery. Forceps and vacuum extractors applied to a baby’s head can damage the fragile skull and cause a fracture. Small, linear fractures usually come with a good prognosis.
They typically heal and cause no lasting consequences. More severe skull fractures may be associated with hematomas or hemorrhages in the brain, which can cause brain damage or even death if not noticed and treated surgically.
Living With a Birth Injury
How your child’s life will be after a birth injury depends on the severity and type of injury. However, all children with lasting consequences of a birth injury will have challenges, and parents will have to provide extra care and assistance for that child.
One of the first choices you will have to make as a parent is how to provide care. Some parents choose to leave work and stay home, while others may hire health care workers to assist them at home.
A child living with the consequences of a birth injury may have physical impairments or developmental delays. This may mean that you will need to prepare your home for a child who needs assistive devices or needs to use a wheelchair.
With developmental delays or cognitive impairments, your child will require special education interventions. The earlier you start these, the better the results will be.
Social interactions and support will also be important for you, your child, and the whole family. Socializing for a disabled child is not as easy as it is for other children and parents, and the child often needs social support to cope with the daily challenges.
Find friends and family who can be there for you when you need them and who will befriend your child and help them practice good social skills. Connecting with other families with similar children can be an essential part of social support.
Seeking Legal Assistance
The worse the prognosis is for your child with a birth injury, the more you may be motivated to seek justice if you feel that your child’s injury was preventable. Many birth injuries are caused by medical malpractice and negligence.
If your doctor failed to perform a Cesarean section, for instance, even though there were signs your labor would be complicated, or if your doctor used forceps too forcefully and damaged your child’s skull, you may have a solid legal case.
An experienced birth injury lawyer can help you make that case and seek both the justice and compensation you need. Getting justice feels right, but it also protects the future children. Compensation won’t heal your child, but it will provide your family with the means to take the best care possible of your child. You can make your case and win a settlement for your baby with the right lawyer.
- Birth Injuries in Newborns. (n.d.). Merck Manuals Consumer Version.
Retrieved from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/children-s-health-issues/problems-in-newborns/birth-injury
- Traumatic Brain Injury in Infants and Toddlers, 0–3 Years Old. (15, August). PubMed Central (PMC).
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168813/
- Facts About Developmental Disabilities. (2019, September 26). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/developmentaldisabilities/facts.html