Birth injury is preventable in most cases in Kingston, New York

Birth trauma is an injury that occurs to your baby during labor and delivery.  Some birth injuries are preventable and some are not.  The first step in the evaluation is to determine whether your child was injured at birth.

In many cases, the signs of birth trauma are obvious.  Your baby may not be breathing at birth and need to be resuscitated with chest compressions and neonatal ventilators.  Pale, blue skin color (known as cyanosis) is another sign that your baby was not getting enough oxygen in the moments before birth. Other signs of birth trauma include seizures that begin in the first couple of days of your baby's life and multi-organ dysfunction, i.e., poor function of organs such as the liver, kidney and lungs.

Sounds confusing?  Let's make it real simple: Apgar scores are an assessment of the well-being of your baby at one, five and ten minutes after delivery. The Apgar scores assess skin color, muscle tone, respiratory rate and give an indication of the overall well-being of your baby.  The Apgar score ranges from a perfect score of ten to zero.  An Apgar score below 7 is considered abnormal.  If the Apgar score remains below 7 at five and ten minutes after delivery, this is one of the most important signs that your baby suffers from birth trauma.

Birth trauma is serious business as it can cause spastic quadriplegia (paralysis of all four extremities), cerebral palsy, Erb's Palsy (an injury to the nerves that supply sensation and motor function to the arms) and even fetal death.

So, what can you do to prevent birth trauma before it happens?  First, be alert to the warning signs that your pregnancy is "high risk" for developing birth trauma.  High risk pregnancies can be caused by the breech position of the baby (legs first, instead of face first), cephalopelvic disproportion (baby's heads and shoulder are larger than the pelvic opening), fetal macrosomia (babies weighing more than 4,500 grams), and prematurity (delivering before the 37th week of your pregnancy).

Fortunately, the rates of infant mortality due to birth trauma have fallen dramatically from 64.2 to 7.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, a remarkable decline of 88%. The advent of ultrasonography and electronic fetal monitoring priot to vaginal delivery have been responsible for the big decline in infant mortality.  Ultrasounds and electronic fetal monitoring help your obstetrician and nurse midwife recognize when you have risk factors for birth trauma.  When you have a "high risk" labor and delivery, make sure you discuss your delivery options, i.e., vaginal delivery versus cesarean section, with your obstetrician.

If you are at risk for a difficult delivery, then a team of perinatal specialists should be present at the time of your delivery.  A perinatologist and/or a neonatologist are specialists in treating babies having signs of distress at birth.

Birth trauma in many cases is preventable.  You should know the factors that put your baby at risk for birth trauma and have a frank discussion with your obstetrician about delivery options, including the presence of a neonatal specialist at your delivery.