Since every birth injury is unique, it’s difficult to determine the exact treatment that will work for each baby without a proper diagnosis. In addition, some parents may opt to have their babies go through more traditional treatments while others may prefer holistic, natural methods of healing. Regardless of which options you choose, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider beforehand to weigh out the pros and cons of each type of treatment.
Not all birth injuries will require surgery. However, in some instances, severe injuries may require surgery in order for the infant to have the best chances of survival. In other instances, surgery can determine if an infant will be able to have full use of any injured limbs.
The most common types of birth injuries that generally require surgery include:
- Severe cases of brachial plexus injuries, when other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, didn’t work
- Brain hemorrhaging
- A fractured skull
A wide variety of medications are used to treat birth injuries. As with surgery, not all birth injuries require medications. In many cases, however, medication is prescribed for pain, seizures, cognitive disabilities, and more.
The type of medication will depend the type and severity of the birth injury. The most common types of medication include:
- Pain management and anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and corticosteroids
- Anti-spastic medication, such as baclofen, tazidine, and dantrolene
- Seizure medication, such as gabapentin and topiramate
- Anticholinergic medication, including trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride and benzotropine mesylate
- Botox, to weaken injured muscles in an attempt the “catch up” the injured muscles to the other muscles
- Stool softeners
Physical therapy is one of the most common treatment options for children who have brachial plexus injuries, cerebral palsy (CP), shoulder dystocia, and any injury that resulted in weakened muscles, coordination problems, lack of voluntary muscle control, and more.
Physical therapy is a form of treatment that helps people move better, decrease pain, and in some cases, restore physical functions. It has been shown to help children with birth injuries have an easier time with daily tasks and activities, such as walking, getting out of bed, eating, moving around, and playing.
Trained and licensed physical therapists who specialize in working with babies and children will generally work diligently with their patients and their parents to help with:
- Strength and balance
- Reducing physical limitations
- Increasing fitness, gait, and posture
Physical therapy sessions may include strength training, joint mobilization, specialized exercises, balance ball practice, and more, depending on the child’s condition and individualized plan. Sessions can take place in a doctor’s office, a physical therapy center, hospitals, nursing centers, classrooms, and at home with the trained therapist.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
In recent years, studies and research have suggested that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can help reduce the symptoms associated with brain damage in infants who experienced oxygen deprivation during childbirth. When oxygen deprivation occurs, babies are at a heightened risk for brain damage, especially if there is not immediate medical intervention.
HBOT consists of placing an infant in a hyperbaric chamber that’s filled with 100% pure oxygen. The air pressure is generally raised up to at least three times normal air pressure, allowing the the baby to breathe in pure oxygen three times higher than normal.
Although more research is needed to understand how effective HBOT is for infants, there is indication that it may play an important role in treating symptoms associated with CP and autism. However, it’s important to note that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that HBOT has not been clinically proven to treat traumatic brain injuries and health conditions.
For more information, refer to our article Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia
Neonatal therapeutic hypothermia is a clinical treatment that reduces an infant’s body temperature in attempt to slow down injuries and diseases. It’s most often used for newborn babies who are at a heightened risk of developing severe brain damage.
Neonatal therapeutic hypothermia works by placing the infant in a cooling blanket. The temperature of the blanket is lowered significantly so that the infant’s entire body temperature is lowered. The therapy usually takes place in a neonatal intensive care unit.
By reducing the baby’s temperature, research suggests that it will help reduce the chances of severe brain injury development.
“We have found that therapeutic hypothermia can reduce the chance of severe brain injury by 25 percent in term-born babies with poor transition or low Apgar scores after birth,” said Dr. Inder, of the Washington University School of Medicine.
Occupational therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on helping children with cognitive, physical, and sensory disabilities. Occupational therapists who specialize in working with children with disorders and disabilities focus on a variety of treatments, including:
- Developing fine motor skills
- Learning basic skills tasks such as brushing teeth and hair
- Developing positive behavior
- Reducing outbursts and impulsiveness
- Improving focus skills and social skills
- Developing and improving hand-eye coordination
- Assisting with learning disabilities
Occupational therapy can take place in a myriad of settings, including hospitals, special education classrooms, at-home sessions, rehabilitation facilities, mental health centers, doctor’s offices, outdoor camps, and more.