3 Causes of Birth Injury and How to Prevent Them

Most women know that giving birth comes with some risks and that labor may even permanently alter their bodies so it’s important to understand the Causes of Birth Injury and How to Prevent Them.

That being said, most hope that, even if they suffer tearing or require a C-section, that their baby will come through alright, but few are aware of just how common birth injuries – cases in which infants are injured in the course of a delivery – can be.

As is the case with most injuries and ailments, however, certain situations can increase the risk of such an outcome.

Little girl looking at her newborn brother - causes of birth injury and how to prevent them

Common Concerns – Causes of Birth Injury and How to Prevent Them

Of the many situations that can make a birth injury more likely, many are common but often harmless.

For example, birthing a larger baby can increase the risk of birth injury since they are more likely to get stuck in the birth canal, which is why it’s generally recommended that mothers avoid going past their due dates by more than a few days.

On the other hand, premature babies are also more likely to suffer birth injuries, but that is because they are physically more delicate, so even normal handling can cause an injury.

Maternal Rights And Medical Wisdom

While delayed delivery can increase the risk of a birth injury, it’s important to acknowledge the role maternal rights play in determining the course of a delivery and how risky said delivery might be.

This issue is of particular interest given the growing popularity of home births, as well as doula- and midwife-facilitated births.

Alternative birth practices are considered to generally be as safe as conventional hospital births in low-risks pregnancies, though practices like free birthing, which rejects all intervention, can increase the risk of a birth injury due to prolonged labor.

Damage From Delivery Tools

Sometimes when a baby is too big or delivery has stalled for some other reason, doctors will attempt to deliver using forceps or a vacuum instead of going directly to a C-section.

This can be effective in many cases and avoids the extended recovery associated with a C-section, but forceps are a common cause of birth injuries.

Parents should be cautious about allowing their provider to use forceps and consider other options when developing a birth plan.

Appearance Vs. Reality

While all of the above can lead to damages identified as “birth injuries,” not all birth injuries are actually serious, though they may be unsightly.

For example, babies tend to have fairly low levels of Vitamin K in their blood (it’s standard to give a Vitamin K injection immediately after birth), which can cause problems with blood coagulation.

As such, many of the most common injuries involve bleeding or swelling, including broken blood vessels in the eye, bleeding under the scalp, or other incidents of bruising.

These injuries tend to look ugly, but resolve by themselves within days.

On the other hand, many of the most significant birth injuries are not outwardly visible.

These include brachial plexus injury or facial paralysis, both of which may be caused by nerve damage and brain damage due to hypoxia.

It’s a counterintuitive situation, in that even broken bones are considered minor injuries (as many as 1-2% of infants suffer a broken clavicle during delivery), while the most serious issues tend to only be identifiable with careful examination.

All expectant parents should be aware of the different types of birth injuries and what can cause them, but it’s also important to know that not all such injuries are caused by negligence.

Still, it’s vital that mothers have someone to advocate for them during labor and that they stay alert, communicate their needs, and demand the best care for themselves and their infants.

Quality maternity care is your right and you deserve nothing less to help prevent Causes of Birth Injury and How to Prevent Them.


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