Birth defects: x common causes and signs to look out for

Birth injury is damage that results from injury during or shortly after the delivery. In most cases, the baby suffers from minor or self-limiting injuries that do not require treatment or severe injuries that cause neonatal morbidity or mortality. Although severe birth injuries need immediate treatment, some have no cure.

People often confuse birth defects with birth injuries when there is a significant difference between the two. Birth defects are the abnormalities that form while a child is still in the womb, whereas birth injuries usually occur during childbirth and are often caused by head trauma or brain bleeds.

Birth injuries are of several types based on the severity and affected areas that result in lifelong disabilities.

Brain injuries mainly occur due to brain injuries that arise from the disruption of blood flow to the brain, stroke, or bleeding.

The most common birth injury is Erb’spalsy, a form of brachial plexus palsy. Erb’s palsy occurs due to an injury to the nerve supplying the shoulders and arms that causes weakness or loss of function in the particular area.

The damage occurs by excessive pulling of an infant’s head and shoulder during a prolonged delivery.

Doctor’s negligence plays a significant role in developing Erb’s palsy in newborns. So, as a parent, if you believe that your child is a victim of birth injury due to medical negligence, you can file a lawsuit for erbs palsy claims or any other birth injuries to pay for your child’s treatment.

Some symptoms of childbirth injuries are noticeable, whereas others usually take months or years to be recognized. Parents should monitor their child’s development and observe any abnormalities.

Birth defects

To better understand how birth injuries occur, let’s look at the causes and signs you need to look out for.

Causes of Birth Injuries

Various conditions contribute to the cause of birth injuries. It is about understanding maternal, internal, or external needs that could increase or reduce the risk.

Maternal Conditions

  1. Prolonged labor is often associated with a high risk of birth injury.
  2. The shape or size of the mother’s pelvis can create difficulties during delivery. Due to these two factors, a newborn is likely to have a limited oxygen supply.
  3. Dystocia, the incomplete expansion of the cervix, causes breathing difficulties and fractures the baby’s collarbone or upper arm.

Infant Conditions

  1. Heavier infants have difficulty during the birthing process and suffer birth injuries.
  2. Newborns born in a head-up or breech position are more susceptible to birth injuries.

External Conditions

  1. Physical injuries like excessive arm pulling during the birthing process cause serious birth injuries.
  2. Medical practices like forceps or vacuum extraction methods during delivery also contribute to the cause of birth injury.

Signs of Birth Injury

A few signs of birth injury often present themselves immediately after delivery. However, some are likely to show up later in life. Here are some signs you need to watch out for.

After Birth

  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Muscle stiffness or flaccidity
  • Seizures
  • Weak or absent reflexes

If you notice any of these signs, immediately consult a doctor to help get your child the best treatment option.

At 12-24 Months Old

Some symptoms of birth injury appear around 1 to 2 years of age. Birth injuries are often detected when a child has not achieved milestones or exhibits physical signs of head or nerve injury.

Symptoms usually include

  • Ataxia
  • Delayed speech
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Lack of coordination
  • Poor muscle control

After two years

Birth injuries are less likely to be visible within the first two years; symptoms after two years are detectable when a child goes to elementary school and depicts signs of birth injury compared with their peers.

Some of these signs include

  • Poor motor skills
  • Inability to draw.
  • Difficulty walking
  • Inability to speak or understand words.

Symptoms are also specific to the area damaged during birth. Some of these symptoms include;

Nerve Injury

One of the common birth injuries is the brachial plexus injury which involves damage to the nerves that control movement. Nerve injuries commonly occur in babies with high birth weight or who are in a breech position

Symptoms of nerve injury include paralysis in one arm, weak hand grip, or the absence of Moro reflex. Cranial nerve injury, a less common type of birth injury, is also likely to occur. The symptom of such a nerve injury is asymmetrical movement in the face.

Skull Fracture

Skull fracture is a potential birth injury that is often mild and has no symptoms. In circumstances where the damage is severe, symptoms are likely to occur: a lump on the head, seizures, bruising or bleeding.

Brain Damage

Various brain damage symptoms occur that are not always obvious but are easy to detect in some cases. These signs include an unusually shaped skull, a prominent forehead, or a small head. The spinal column is also malformed with distorted facial features and neck stiffness.

As children with brain damage grow, more symptoms involving developmental delays, cognitive deficits, and behavioral changes are likely to occur.

Cerebral Palsy

Among the common birth injuries is also cerebral palsy, which occurs due to a lack of oxygen supply to the brain.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy are either obvious immediately after birth or later in life. A few symptoms include stiffness, difficulty walking, and spastic movements.


Regardless of precautions, birth injuries are likely to occur with life-changing symptoms. Often symptoms of birth injuries are visible later in life.

If your child suffered a birth injury, inform your doctor at the earliest. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the symptoms from aggravating and improve the quality of life.

While birth injuries are incurable, interventions can help a child overcome difficulties performing daily routine tasks.

Birth injuries often result from medical malpractice, and as a parent, you can contact a birth injury lawyer to win justice for your child.

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