It is common for babies to experience physical injuries while they are being born. The best way to protect your baby is to know what causes these injuries and how to avoid them. Armed with this knowledge, you can speak to your doctor about ways to reduce your baby’s risk of experiencing one of these frequent problems.
Excessive Scalp Swelling
A baby’s scalp and head often undergo swelling and bruising after delivery in a condition medically known as caput succedaneum. Some swelling is normal due to the pressure on the baby’s head as it travels through the birth canal. The condition usually resolves itself in a few days with no lasting effects, but you may be able to minimize caput succedaneum by asking your obstetrician to refrain from using vacuum extraction during your delivery.
Shoulder dystocia is rare but worth noting due to its potential for lasting complications. Occurring after the baby’s head has passed through the birth canal, shoulder dystocia is a condition in which one or both of the baby’s shoulders get stuck behind the mother’s pelvis. This can potentially break the baby’s arm or collarbone. Babies can also die or suffer brain damage when the dystocia restricts cranial blood flow. To prevent shoulder dystocia, consider a cesarean section for multiple births and avoid having your labor induced, if possible.
Common in difficult vaginal deliveries, Klumpke’s palsy refers to the paralysis of the arm, wrist and fingers. Usually permanent, the condition gives the hand a claw-like appearance. Klumpke’s palsy is caused by damage to cervical or thoracic spinal nerves and may occur if your obstetrician improperly pulls your baby from the birth canal by the arm. Verify that your obstetrician is well versed in delivering big babies with small mothers to avoid this complication.
Many obstetricians use forceps to grab babies by the head and help pull them out of the birth canal during delivery. Unfortunately, forceps sometimes damage facial nerves. When this happens, one side of the baby’s face won’t move when he or she cries and the baby may not be able to close one eye. If the nerve is bruised, the paralysis will resolve itself in a few weeks. If, however, the forceps tear the nerve, your baby will need corrective surgery.
This condition looks frightening, but it is completely benign. During delivery, it is common for small blood vessels in the baby’s eyes to rupture. The result is a bright red spot in the white part of the eye. This happens due to the pressure exerted on the baby within the birth canal. Within one or two weeks the baby’s body will reabsorb the blood and the condition will clear itself with no lasting effects or eye damage.
Birth injuries are often simple cuts and bruises. They can, however, be much more serious and have permanent effects. To minimize the risk of injury, speak to your doctor about any concerns before your delivery and follow his advice throughout your pregnancy. Doing so will help put you and your baby on the path to a safe and healthy delivery.