What Are Some Common Birth Injuries?

John Fisher
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Birth trauma or birth injuries are physical injuries, which can occur during the birth process.  Difficult labor and delivery can occur as a result of the size of the baby or the position of the baby. 


The most common bases for difficult birth include large babies — over 8 lbs, 13 ounces; prematurity, cephalopelvic disproportion — the size and shape of the mother’s pelvis; dystocia — difficult labor; prolonged labor; and abnormal birthing presentation — like buttocks first delivery.


These conditions during labor and delivery can lead to common birth injuries.  The most common birth injuries include:


  • Caput Succandaneum:  swelling as a result of traveling through the birth canal.  Usually more likely to occur when delivery by vacuum extraction


  • Cephalohematoma:  bleeding around the bone, which occurs a few hours after birth on the baby’s head.  Can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to heal, however if the area affected is very large, babies can develop jaundice. 


  • Forceps Marks:  bruising can occur just from delivery through the birth canal, however, use of forceps can cause marks or bruising on the baby’s face or head. 


  • Subjconjuctival Hemorrhage:  redness in the baby’s eyes presenting as a red circle around the iris. 


  • Facial paralysis:  temporary or permanent paralysis as a result of pressure during delivery but may also occur with use of forceps.  Most noticeable when the baby cries; there is no movement on the side of the face with the injury and the eye does not close.  If the nerve is just bruised, the injury may be temporary and heal within a few weeks.  If the nerve suffered permanent damage, surgery may be required to correct the paralysis.


  • Brachial Palsy:  also may be temporary or permanent and occurs during delivery when the baby’s shoulder is having difficulty being delivered.  The baby will present with bruising and swelling and may not be able to flex or rotate their arms. 


  • Fractures:  can be very painful for the baby, and most commonly occurs on the collarbone.  Although healing can occur quickly, the fracture can limit movement for a long period of time and the baby will rarely move the arm on the fractured side. 


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