A birth injury is an incident in which an infant suffers physical damage or trauma due to complications during the labor and delivery processes. There are many types of birth injuries that can result in oxygen deprivation for the infant, brain damage and serious conditions like cerebral palsy. Unlike birth defects, birth injuries are not genetic or inevitable, making them more difficult to predict. Certain risk factors, however, increase the likelihood that an infant will experience a birth injury.
If a mother has an infection before or during birth, the infant is more likely to suffer a birth injury. Maternal infections can impact the labor process in several ways. Left unaddressed, infections can change the fetal membrane and placenta, induce fever and other conditions that disrupt the labor process, restrict an infant’s oxygen supply and contribute to brain development issues.
2. Maternal and Infant Size
During a standard delivery, the infant travels down a confined birth canal. A large infant or a small mother with a narrow or abnormally-shaped birth canal makes this process more difficult. Dangerous circumstances can develop if an infant gets stuck in the birth canal, including disruption of the oxygen supply and brain damage.
If complications due to size arise during delivery, doctors can use obstetrical tools to help the infant complete its passage down the canal. However, the use of these tools presents a separate risk of injuries such as head trauma and nerve damage. In order to decrease the likelihood of a size-related birth injury, many mothers choose to deliver via a cesarean section.
3. Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy when a mother’s body over-produces hormones related to fetal development, including a hormone that makes insulin less effective. This can result in diabetes in certain women. Gestational diabetes can be controlled through diet changes, exercise and medication to reduce the negative impact on the birthing process. If left unaddressed, however, gestational diabetes can contribute to a number of conditions that are linked to a heightened risk of birth injuries, such as premature delivery, high blood pressure and overly large infant size.
All expecting parents hope for an easy delivery and a happy and healthy baby. While certain factors inject uncertainty into the childbirth process, understanding the risk factors and working with medical professionals to mitigate any danger to the infant or mother can reduce the likelihood of a birth injury.