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Birth injuries in babies may range from severe and immediately detectable to milder and more difficult to recognize or diagnose.  Babies can be injured during childbirth in a number of ways and the causes and injuries can also lead to a variety of potential symptoms. Some of these may be obvious right after birth and some may not show up until later, as the child grows and develops.
Birth injury may be caused by brain damage, undiagnosed illnesses, nerve damage, and other potential accidents that can occur during birth. Treatments can help, especially when given right away, but even with treatment many of these babies will live with symptoms of birth injuries for the rest of their lives.
Nerve Injury Symptoms
One of the most common types of birth injury is damage to the brachial plexus nerves, the nerves that control the movement and sensation in the arms. These nerves can easily be damaged when a child is emerging from the birth canal and is pulled too hard. It is most common in babies with high birth weight or that present in the breech position.
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The symptoms of a brachial plexus injury include any degree of paralysis in one arm. If a baby is not moving one arm as much as the other it is usually a sign of Erb’s palsy or damaged brachial plexus nerves.
Other signs include a weaker grip in one hand, one arm held awkwardly against the side of the body, and the absence of the Moro reflex. Cranial nerve injury during birth is a less common type of nerve injury. Symptoms may include facial paralysis or asymmetrical movements in the face.
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
Another common type of birth injury is cerebral palsy, which is most often caused by brain damage resulting from oxygen deprivation during birth. Symptoms can vary in cerebral palsy. Depending on how extensive the brain damage is, a child with cerebral palsy may have a mild case with few symptoms or may suffer from debilitating symptoms. 
Some of these symptoms may be obvious immediately after a child is born, while others will become more obvious with age. The symptoms also vary with the type of cerebral palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common, with symptoms including stiffness, awkward movements, and difficulty walking. In severe cases of spastic cerebral palsy, a child may experience spastic movements in all parts of the body.
Other symptoms that a child with cerebral palsy may have include vision and hearing problems, seizures, cognitive impairments, developmental disabilities, writhing, jerky, or uncontrollable movements, trouble with balance and coordination, and difficulty with fine motor skills.
Some of the earliest symptoms of cerebral palsy that might be seen in an infant include the head flopping to one side or back, a feeling of either unusual stiffness or floppiness when holding the baby, a feeling that the baby is pushing away when being held, and stiff legs that cross each other or scissoring movements.
Skull Fracture Symptoms
Another potential type of birth injury is a skull fracture. These are often mild and cause no symptoms. If a fracture exists and is undetected, it may cause issues later. When skull fractures are more moderate or severe, symptoms may include an indentation or a lump on the head, seizures, bleeding, bruising, or unexplained listlessness. 
Brain Damage Symptoms
There are a variety of brain damage symptoms. The symptoms aren’t always obvious, but sometimes there are noticeable immediate signs. These early signs may include an unusually shaped skull, a small head or a large forehead, for instance.
The spinal column may also be malformed and the facial features may be distorted and the neck stiff. A baby with brain damage may also have unusual eye movements. Seizures also occur in babies with brain damage. General fussiness or discomfort that seems excessive may also occur.
As a child with brain damage grows older, more symptoms may emerge, including developmental delays, cognitive deficits, and behavioral challenges. There also may be issues with physical development, including failure to meet normal developmental milestones like crawling or walking. 
Tremors, muscle spasms, and extreme fatigue may also be ongoing symptoms of brain damage.
What to Do if Your Child Shows Birth Injury Symptoms
If you suspect that something is wrong with your baby, inform your doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment of a birth injury can spare your child many more symptoms in the future. Not all birth injuries can be treated successfully or cured, but there are early interventions that can help. For instance, a newer treatment that involves cooling a brain-damaged baby for several days is proving to be successful in reversing a lot of damage that causes symptoms.
Although not all cases of birth injury can be cured or reversed, early interventions can even help with things like educational and cognitive deficits. Giving your child the care he needs as soon as possible will help him live the best life.
And, if you suspect that some kind of malpractice was involved in your child’s birth injury, don’t hesitate to contact a birth injury lawyer to find out if you have a case and what you can do to win compensation and justice for your child.
- Birth Injuries in Newborns. (n.d.). Merck Manuals Consumer Version.
Retrieved from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/children-s-health-issues/general-problems-in-newborns/birth-injuries-in-newborns
- What is Cerebral Palsy? (2019, September 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/facts.html
- Birth injury. (n.d.). Stanford Children's Health - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.
Retrieved from: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=birth-injury-90-P02340
- Neonatal Brain Injury | NEJM. (2009, October 8). New England Journal of Medicine.
Retrieved from: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra041996