When a baby develops a hemorrhage in the brain either before birth or shortly after birth, parts the brain responsible for motor development and development skills may become compromised, which can lead to cerebral palsy. This type of hemorrhage, known as intracranial hemorrhage (IVH), comes in four stages, with Grade 1 being the least severe.
Causes of IVH
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to a heightened risk of an infant developing IVH, including:
- Placental problems, such as placenta previa and/or blood clots in the placenta
- Infant stroke
- Trauma during labor, such as head injuries
- Oxygen deprivation
- Medical negligence when using birth-assisting tools, such as forceps
- Maternal infection
- Unstable infant blood pressure
- Respiratory issues
Grade I IVH
Grade I is the mildest form of IVH, and in most cases, the bleeding is minimal and there are no long-term problems. In Grade I, the bleeding is contained in the germinal matrix. It does not reach the ventricles.
In some cases, infants may not exhibit any symptoms at all, but other times, symptoms may include:
- Abnormal blood pressure and heart rate
- Pauses in breathing
- Decreased reflexes and muscle tone
- Fatigue and excessive sleep
- Abnormal body movements
- Possible seizures
Grade II IVH
Grade II is considered a mild form of IVH, but slightly more serious than Grade I. However, similar to Grade I, the symptoms remain the same and there is usually no concern for long-term problems.
Grades III & IV IVH
The final stages of IVH, Grades III & IV, are marked by substantially more bleeding in the brain, with Grade IV being the most severe.
In the last stages of IVH, the bleeding and swelling can cause a condition known as hydrocephalus, which is marked by an increased amount of fluid in the brain. In addition, Grade II and Grade IV IVH can lead to blood pressure changes, resulting in the baby’s blood vessels to rupture if not treated in time.
Generally, diagnosis occurs after a physician detects that blood has reached the ventricles. However, since blood doesn’t usually reach the ventricles during Stage 1, physicians may need to order a series of blood tests to confirm IVH, as well as look for (if any) symptoms.
Although there isn’t a way to prevent IVH bleeding, physicians will try to keep the baby as healthy and as stable as possible. In more severe cases, during the late stages, a blood transfusion may be needed or a spinal tap to reduce swelling.
In most instances, babies with Grade I IVH will not experience developmental delays or develop cerebral palsy, although the risk is always there. Most infants, however, will heal and improve without any long-term damage during this stage.
If you baby develops a high fever and/or if you notice any neurological symptoms, you should contact your baby’s healthcare provider immediately.
It’s ideal to deliver an infant as close to his/her due date as possible, as babies born prematurely run the highest risk of developing IVH. Although it’s not always possible to carry to term, there are a number of things you can do to lessen the risk of delivering your baby prematurely, including:
- Keep all medical appointments and get routine prenatal care.
- Do not drink alcohol or smoke while pregnant.
- Maintain a healthy, nutritious diet.
- If you are at a high risk of delivering early, consult with your physician about taking corticosteroids.
- Ask your doctor about taking vitamin K if you are taking medications that may promote bleeding.