Premature Birth and the Risk of Birth Injuries
Even under the best of circumstances, giving birth isn’t easy. But according to the March of Dimes, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely (before 37 weeks) every year. Although many babies who are born prematurely go on to live happy, healthy lives, premature birth is the leading cause of death of babies in the United States.
Babies who are born prematurely face an increased risk of several different health complications, including a higher risk of vision problems, hearing loss, dental problems, asthma, gastrointestinal issues, and developmental delays. But premature babies also face a higher risk of experiencing a birth injury around the time of delivery.
Since the bodies of premature babies are more delicate than the bodies of full-term babies, it’s more likely they will experience some degree of physical trauma. Brain injuries are also common in premature babies and the most common reason why those brain injuries occur is because of a lack of oxygen around the time of birth. When a baby’s lungs are underdeveloped enough, their brain might not receive enough oxygen, even with the assistance of a breathing machine. Oxygen deprivation can also occur because of many other problems, such as problems with the umbilical cord, the baby getting stuck during delivery, or problems with the mother’s blood pressure.
Oxygen deprivation can occur for many different reasons, but it’s not the only thing that can cause brain injuries. It’s believed that about 25% of premature births in the United States are linked to maternal health conditions and many of those have been linked to infant brain damage. Some maternal infections, like rubella, chicken pox, and hepatitis B, can all be dangerous if passed on to a child and if the mother develops an infection during pregnancy, it’s very important that her doctor take steps to make sure the baby will be kept as safe as possible. Preeclampsia is another condition which has been linked to an increased risk of cerebral palsy.
Jaundice is a very common condition in newborns, even in full-term babies. But premature babies are at a higher risk of having jaundice since their livers are more likely to be underdeveloped and unable to remove bilirubin effectively. In most cases, jaundice is treated quickly and the child doesn’t experience any long-term complications as a result. But if jaundice isn’t treated quickly enough, the bilirubin will continue to build up and result in Kernicterus, which is a type of brain injury. If kernicterus develops, it can cause hearing loss, cerebral palsy, vision and dental problems, and intellectual disabilities.
While some signs of injury in premature babies can be easy to see right away, it might take years for other symptoms to emerge. Regardless of when you realize your child has sustained an injury around the time of birth, it’s important to seek medical treatment and speak to a birth trauma lawyer as soon as possible. Even if your child is a few years old, it’s not too late to get help and learn about your options.