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A Primer on Birth Injuries Involving Bleeding in the Brain

The birth of a child is a blessed event. That blessing can feel like a curse, though, if a doctor or nurse's negligence results in an injury to the newborn child. There are a surprising number of different types of injuries that can befall a child on his or her way into the world. This article will discuss birth injuries in general and provide more information about a specific category of injury, those involving bleeding in the child's brain.

Birth Injuries

What is a birth injury? Essentially, a birth injury is any harm that comes to a child while in the process of or immediately following his or her birth. Obviously, delivery is a fairly traumatic process for the child, one that involves a great deal of work by both the mother and the doctor, nurse or midwife who is attending the birth. Even in the best of circumstances, a child can sometimes be bruised or suffer a soft tissue injury when being delivered in the traditional manner or through Caesarean section. Minor natural injuries, though, will resolve on their own, do not significantly affect the child's health and most likely require no medical treatment.

Medical negligence, however, can cause severe injury or even the wrongful death of an innocent child. An overly aggressive doctor or nurse who is trying to hurry the child from the womb can actually break or dislocate the delicate bones of the child's shoulder, clavicle or forearm. That same type of action can also result in a condition known as shoulder dystocia where the child's shoulder becomes wedged behind the mother's pelvis while being delivered. When the child is thus trapped, his or her oxygen supply could be limited, resulting in brain damage or crucial nerve endings could be irreparably harmed, usually resulting in either Erb's or Klempke's Palsy.

Birth Injuries Affecting the Baby's Brain

Obviously, no parent wants their child to be injured while being brought into the world, but some types of birth injuries are easier to cope with than others. The most traumatic of all birth injuries are the ones affecting the baby's brain. Some brain-involved birth injuries are caused from too much shifting of the baby's skull bones when in the birth canal; if the bones move too much, they can press in on the sensitive tissues of the brain and cause trauma.

Other brain injuries are caused when the child's oxygen or blood supplies are disrupted. The lack of oxygen to the baby - a condition known as asphyxia - can cause the death of vital portions of the baby's brain. Perinatal asphyxia can be caused by genetic conditions affecting the baby, but it can also result from inadequate monitoring of the baby's vital signs and the positioning of the umbilical cord at all times during the delivery. If the baby's vital signs show distress, oftentimes an immediate Caesarean section can prevent permanent harm; if the C-Section is delayed, however, the child will likely suffer irreparable harm in the form of developmental delays, learning disabilities or Cerebral Palsy.

Bleeding in the Brain

When the child suffers an injury that results in bleeding in his or her brain, there is almost always permanent harm inflicted. Depending on the type and severity of the brain bleeding - known in medical terms as an intracranial hemorrhage - the baby could be relatively "normal" later in life, could endure seizures in the first few days after birth or could be severely handicapped. Bleeding in the brain is the result of a burst blood vessel within the baby's skull. This is usually caused by increased blood pressure as the baby's body tries to increase the level of oxygen to the brain caused when:

  • The baby was improperly monitored
  • Caesarean section delivery method wasn't performed in a timely manner (or not at all)
  • Labor went on too long after the amniotic sac had begun leaking fluid (i.e. the mother's "water broke"), lowering the level of oxygen the baby had access to
  • The umbilical cord was wrapped around the child's neck or otherwise impeded
  • The wrong tools were used (like forceps instead of a vacuum extractor or vice versa) to assist in the labor

If your child has suffered bleeding in the brain, broken bones, severe hematomas or other birth-related injuries, consult an experienced birth injury or personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.


Located in Philadelphia, Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., home of MyPhillyLawyer, serves clients in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States.

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