Why do Intracranial Hemorrhages Occur During Childbirth?

Delivering a newborn is a natural process that may require modern technology to facilitate birth. Complicated pregnancies may lead to the use of birthing assistance tools to move the infant through the birth canal and speed delivery. While most birth processes occur without incident, birth injuries are unexpected events that may threaten the health of a newborn and the mother.

Infant intracranial hemorrhages are brain bleeds or brain hemorrhages that occur during birth inside the brain or skull. Medical negligence resources are available for the parents of newborns experiencing a Portland birth injury lawsuit.

Causes of Intracranial Hemorrhages at Childbirth

Intracranial hemorrhages occurring at childbirth may cause mild to severe injuries and may impact an infant throughout life. These birth injuries may result from various incidents during birth, including:

  • Birth trauma to the newborn’s head as a result of the use of mechanical force or birth assistance tools when macrosomia, abnormal fetal presentation, or cephalopelvic disproportion occurs
  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy resulting from too little oxygen and blood flow to the brain
  • Oxygen deprivation, known as birth asphyxia, near the time of birth, during the birthing process, or just after delivery
  • Prolonged labor resulting in trauma
  • Blood disorders

These birth injuries may occur naturally but also result from medical malpractice by the attending obstetrics doctor, other medical staff who play a vital role in the birth and delivery process, or the medical facility that fails to ensure safe protocols are in place and qualified physicians are working within their facility and providing safe patient care. Premature infants are more likely to suffer intracranial hemorrhages than full-term newborns because a newborn’s circulatory system is still in the developmental stages.

Diagnosing Intracranial Hemorrhages

Observation is vital for a newborn when birthing devices are used during delivery to detect any swelling in the head. Changes in the circumference of the head can be one of the first indicators of an intracranial hemorrhage. Swelling is an observable indicator that a birth injury may have occurred.

Brain imaging and testing can play a tremendous role in early intracranial hemorrhage detection:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) generates high-resolution images of the brain’s detailed structures using magnetic waves to detect a brain bleed.
  • CT (computed tomography) scans create cross-sectional images of the brain by combining x-ray images of varying angles of the brain.
  • Ultrasonography is a noninvasive diagnostic tool that utilizes sound waves to create images in real-time.
  • As deemed necessary, other tests may be used to detect intracranial hemorrhage.

A physician can discuss which imaging tools and tests provide more accurate diagnoses and their risks.

Determining Intracranial Hemorrhage Severity

Neonatal brain hemorrhages occur approximately 3.5 times out of 1,000 live births, according to the National Library of Medicine. Their report also documents brain bleeds as one of the most common neurological disorders in newborns. Brain bleeds in newborns are measured in grades, and according to the cited report:

  • Grade 1-2 hemorrhages are most closely associated with developmental disabilities
  • Grade 3-4 hemorrhages result in severe disability

Finally, this data shines a spotlight on the impact of intracranial hemorrhages, stating that 85% of neonatal hemorrhage survivors exhibit significant cognitive dysfunction. Most incidents will produce special educational needs.

Intracranial Hemorrhage Symptoms

The severity of an intracranial hemorrhage will dictate the symptoms of the birth trauma. Depending on the location of the bleeding, symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Lethargy or varied levels of consciousness
  • Breathing complications such as shallow or strained breaths
  • Trouble feeding and weak sucking
  • Apnea
  • Seizures
  • Swelling or bulging in the soft spots of a baby’s head
  • Abnormal skin tone often appears blue or pale

Common Intracranial Hemorrhages

Intracranial hemorrhages are identified by their location. The sooner the brain bleed relating to a birth injury is determined, the better the outcome will be. Intracranial hemorrhages include:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke: A rupturing of the blood vessels leading to bleeding in the brain, which may also produce irritation, pressure buildup, and swelling
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage: Bleeding that occurs in the ventricular systems of the brain where the production of cerebrospinal fluid occurs
  • Subdural hemorrhage: Rupturing in one or more of the blood vessels in the subdural space
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage: Bleeding originating from blood vessels within the brain
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage: Bleeding in the area between the two membranes closest to the brain that provides covering

Treatment will depend on the type of intracranial hemorrhage.

Long-Term Effects Associated With Intracranial Hemorrhages

A newborn may experience long-term impact as a result of intracranial hemorrhage resulting from medical negligence. Most often, these impacts are recognized as developmental delays present themselves as a child is unable to meet developmental milestones. Intracranial hemorrhage may lead to:

  • Cerebral palsy affects a newborn’s movements, posture, and balance
  • Visual and hearing impairment
  • Cognitive and academic challenges in learning
  • Behavioral effects
  • Challenges with daily living skills

Treatment and management of an intracranial hemorrhage may produce ongoing health challenges for a newborn. Determining the costs of care is a crucial step in preparing for a life impacted by birth trauma and medical malpractice.

Treatment and Costs Related to Intracranial Hemorrhage

Once the initial hemorrhage has been addressed, treatment may often consist of supportive therapies as needed. With positive outcomes, an intracranial hemorrhage will heal on its own. Surgery may be necessary when a severe injury occurs. Other treatment options may include ongoing:

  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Vision and hearing testing
  • Psychological interventions

As with all healthcare, treating an ongoing trauma due to birth injury in Oregon can be costly, requiring various services to accommodate the possibility of a more functional life. While the immediate costs of care may be more evident, future medical expenses will depend on the severity of the birth injury, necessary assistance for daily life, and whether an individual can earn an income as an adult. Proving medical malpractice is challenging but possible with a committed team of Oregon medical malpractice attorneys on your side. Help is available for the birth injuries your child sustains due to intracranial hemorrhage resulting from medical negligence in Oregon.