Infant skull fractures or bulges, also known as head trauma, is generally minor and usually doesn’t result in long-term brain damage. However, this extent of the fracture or bulge will depend upon the prognosis. Skull fractures and/or bulges can happen for a variety of reasons during childbirth, and in many instances, could have otherwise been prevented with diligent and careful medical care.
Vacuum Extraction Injury
A vacuum extractor is a tool that physicians use to help deliver an infant, typically during a difficult, stressful delivery. In many instances, physicians claim that a vacuum extractor is safer than the use of traditional forceps because no metal pieces touch the baby. However, a vacuum extractor comes with its own set of complications if used improperly.
The mouth of the vacuum is placed on the baby’s head –it must be placed on the exact middle of the head- and then the baby is essentially vacuumed out of the birth canal. However, baby heads are not one complete skull, but instead a few different skull plates that will eventually form into one skull. Because of the construction of a newborn’s infant skull, injuries can happen when the vacuum is placed too roughly on any one plate, or too much pressure is applied on the area between the plates, thus causing the membrane between the skin and the brain to swell with blood (medically known as cephalohematoma).
When the skull swells with blood, this creates a soft bulge that is generally easy to identify. In addition, vacuum extraction injuries may also cause skull fractures, but will require a CT scan or an MRI to identify it.
Forceps Delivery Injury
Another tool created for the safe delivery of a baby, the forceps were invented in the 16th century. You might intuit that childbirth hasn’t changed much over the course of human history, but keep in mind that in the 16th century, the mortality rate was much higher. That being said, this antique tool, though used a lot less frequently than in the past, is still used.
Forceps may occasionally cause skull fractures and cephalohematoma, generally when the physician uses too much while on the infant’s head.
When your child has cephalohematoma or a skull fracture, other symptoms you may observe include anemia, infection, and jaundice. Because a skull fracture is a form of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), your baby may exhibit signs of brain damage such as behavioral changes, irritability, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Since you’re dealing with an infant and not an adult, these additional symptoms may be harder to decipher, but the older your baby is, the better you know his or her personality and the more you’ll be able to identify these accompanying symptoms.