Birth Injury: Brain Damage

Did you recently give birth and suspect your newborn has suffered brain damage or a birth injury? It is essential to be aware of different signs that could indicate negligence occurred.

When your infant is injured due to another’s negligence, you could have grounds to take legal action and seek monetary compensation for their brain damage or birth injury. Ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve requires assistance from the birth injury lawyers at Bachus & Schanker.

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What is a brain injury at birth?

A brain injury at birth is when a newborn experiences an injury during the birthing process. The most common birth injury is brain damage which can be caused by:

  • Bacterial or Viral Infections
  • Kernicterus or Jaundice
  • Insufficient Oxygen/Oxygen Deprivation
  • Physically Injured During Delivery

While some newborns can recover from minor injuries, other children are not so lucky. They can experience learning disabilities and other chronic medical conditions that can last their entire lifetime.

How can a baby receive a brain injury at birth?

newborn baby crying

A baby can receive a brain injury at birth for various reasons. It is essential to remember each infant’s injuries can occur for different reasons. As such, each birth injury claim is unique to the specific child. Keeping this in mind, some of the more common causes of brain injuries at birth include the following:

  • The mother is obese. Excess weight can increase the risk of birth injuries because infants are delicate and easily injured.
  • The baby is born prematurely. Premature infants are not fully developed and are even more fragile than full-term babies.
  • The baby is considered large. Some babies can become quite big before birth, weighing nine pounds or more. It is more difficult for a larger baby to come through the birth canal, which could lead to injuries.
  • The mother’s birth canal has an insufficient shape or size. When possible, the baby should be delivered by cesarean section (c-section) to reduce the risk of injury. However, that is not always possible, and the baby could be injured.
  • Difficult or Hard Labor – When labor is considered difficult or hard or goes on for an extended period, it can create concerns about whether the baby is still safe.
  • The baby is breech. This condition is where their feet will come out first during birth, which can increase the risk of injury. Some doctors will also attempt to turn the baby and cause injuries in the process.
  • Excessive force during delivery. Removing the baby from the birth canal or during a c-section sometimes results in doctors using excessive force that can cause injuries.
  • Forceps or vacuum extraction was used during delivery. Misusing forceps or using too much pressure during a vacuum extraction can injure a newborn.

What is the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury?

Some people mistakenly assume birth defects are the same as birth injuries, especially when the infant experiences brain damage. However, birth defects are various conditions that develop as the baby grows.

Birth defects can be caused by the mother’s behavior, such as drinking, using drugs, or smoking. They can also be caused by pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or obesity.

In addition, a family history of birth defects can increase their risks. Even having a bacterial or viral infection before birth could cause a birth defect. Furthermore, a woman giving birth at an older age could result in birth defects.

A birth injury, or birth trauma, is defined as “an impairment of the neonate’s body function or structure due to an adverse event that occurred at birth,” according to the National Vital Statics Report. Birth injuries are caused due to some form of mechanical or outside force during birth and range in severity.

What are common causes of medical negligence brain injuries?

Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare provider fails to provide the quality and standard of care the patient deserves, makes a grievous error, or fails to act to prevent potential injuries. Some examples of medical negligence that occur during birth and that could result in brain injuries for the infant include:

  • Pre-birth errors or mistakes that lead to complications during delivery.
  • The incorrect use of medical instruments before or during birth.
  • Failure to monitor and manage a difficult pregnancy correctly.
  • Not monitoring the oxygen levels of the infant during birth.

What are common types of brain injuries?

The four common types of brain injuries that can occur during birth include:

  1. Cerebral Dysgenesis – Cerebral dysgenesis rarely occurs as the result of a birth injury. This condition usually occurs before birth when the brain does not develop and grow correctly and can cause cerebral palsy.
  2. Periventricular Leukomalacia – This type of brain damage occurs when a baby is premature. Sections of brain tissue die and leave holes in their place. The Infant can experience developmental problems, learning disabilities, and nervous system problems.
  3. Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy – This brain injury occurs when the brain is not receiving sufficient oxygen. When an infant experiences this brain injury, it can be permanent and cause cerebral palsy, cognitive functioning problems, and developmental disabilities. The extent of the damage is related to how long the brain did not receive sufficient oxygen.
  4. Intracranial Hemorrhage – An intracranial hemorrhage is also called brain bleeding. When the brain bleeds, it can damage brain cells. Extensive brain bleeding can cause developmental issues and neurologic issues. Some infants could also experience seizures or epilepsy.

How do you know if your baby has brain damage after birth?

It is not always easy to notice whether your baby has brain damage after birth. However, some of the signs to look for immediately following birth include the following:

  • There is noticeable bruising on the face or head.
  • The head and skull appear abnormally shaped or smaller in proportion to your infant’s body.
  • Your infant seems very fussy or irritable.
  • Your infant’s eye movement seems abnormal.
  • You notice their spine does not feel normal and seems malformed.
  • The infant’s neck seems stiff or, conversely, excessively loose, so their head flops around.
  • Your infant has problems eating or sleeping, or cries continuously.
  • You notice your infant’s facial features seem distorted or abnormal.

As your baby grows and develops during their first few years, you want to look for other signs that could indicate they experienced brain damage during birth. These include:

  • Physical developmental issues and delays, like not crawling, sitting up, or walking.
  • Cognitive and learning developmental issues, like not learning how to talk, focus, or concentrate.
  • Demonstrating a lack of impulse control by acting out however they want.
  • Problems forming an attachment to those around them.
  • Having a higher sensitivity to pain that seems unusual.
  • Exhibiting the signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy.

In some cases, children may not display any signs they experienced brain damage during birth until they are a toddler. If you notice your child has problems feeding themselves, holding objects, getting dressed, or remembering things, you may want to have a doctor check for brain damage.

Can newborns recover from brain damage?

It depends on the extent of brain damage the newborn sustained. When the brain damage is mild, most children will recover. However, it can take several years of ongoing care and treatment before they fully recover.

The recovery prognosis is not as promising in cases where the newborn experienced moderate or severe brain damage. Although various treatments, physical therapy, and care can help alleviate symptoms, the brain damage cannot be reversed.

What are the effects of brain damage in newborns?

Parents need to be aware that the effects of brain damage, when not immediately noticeable after birth, can start to appear as their infant’s brain develops. Parents should watch for these signs:

  • Emotional Signs – The child seems anxious, depressed, frustrated, or exhibits unusual mood swings.
  • Cognitive Signs – The child has difficulties with perception, learning, and thinking.
  • Communication Signs – The child is not able to express themselves verbally or using their hands.
  • Physical Signs – The child has coordination problems with balancing, moving, and walking. They may also show signs of muscle problems, like not being able to grasp and hold objects.
  • Behavioral Signs – The child has problems distinguishing between right and wrong and does not understand the difference between the two.
  • Hormonal Signs – The child can have imbalances in hormone levels that can cause excessive weight gain or weight loss, lack of body hair, or diabetes.
  • Lack of Awareness Signs – The child remains in a dazed state and is unresponsive.

Should you notice these signs, it is essential to have them diagnosed as soon as possible.

How long do I have to file a birth injury or brain damage claim?

In Colorado, the statute of limitations is only two years to file a birth injury or brain damage claim from the date the injury took place. However, if your child is the one to file the claim, they usually have two years from the date of their 18th birthday.

Should I hire a catastrophic birth injury lawyer to seek legal action?

catastrophic birth injury lawyer

When an infant is exhibiting signs of a birth injury or brain damage, most parents want to know the underlying causes. Unfortunately, in some cases, the negligence of a medical professional could have occurred.

Should that be the case, speaking to a catastrophic birth injury lawyer is worth your time to determine your options for taking legal action. At Bachus & Schanker, our birth and brain injury lawyers provide a free case evaluation and consultation.

Should you decide to take legal action against the responsible party, you need a law firm with the expertise to represent your interest against insurance companies and the attorneys they use to try to fight your birth injury claim.

CTA: Schedule your free case evaluation and consultation today with our catastrophic birth injury lawyers in Colorado.

What Are Birth Defects? (2021).
Dumpa, V., et al. (2022). Birth Trauma.
What Is Cerebral Palsy? (2022).

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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus

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Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.