Broken bones and fractures are not things that any parent would want their child to experience, and in most instances, there usually isn’t a major worry for these types of injuries to become life-threatening.
However, broken bones and fractures can unfortunately happen at any age, but especially to infants during delivery, as their skin and bones are still extremely fragile. In many cases, light bruising is a normal part of the delivery process, yet fractures and broken bones typically indicate that something happened during the delivery process that could have been prevented. Physicians must be careful to ensure that the infant doesn’t suffer from needless harm caused by human error and medical mistakes.
Symptoms of Infant Broken Bones
Broken bones are not easily detectable, as the baby is unable to tell you where the pain is coming from. However, a few telltale signs that may indicate a broken bone include:
- Swelling around the broken bone
- Obvious signs of pain, such as constant crying
- Inability to move the broken limb
Symptoms of Infant Fractures
According to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, clavicle fractures (collarbone fractures) are the most common birth injury. It almost always occurs after a rough, stressful childbirth. The most common symptoms associated with a clavicle fracture include:
- Crying when the affected area is touched or moved
- Little or no movement in the affected area, generally the arm on the side of the fracture
- The affected side of the shoulder may appear to droop and be lower than the unaffected side
- A lump may appear in the affected area, usually a few weeks after the injury
Symptoms of bones fractures in the legs, arms, or other limbs may include:
- Pain and swelling in the affected area
- Redness and bruising around the affected area
- Inability to move the limb in the fractured area
- Deformity in the affected area, which is typically easily recognizable
Boston Children’s Hospital states that it’s important for parents and/or loved ones to be proactive about infant fractures, as young bones don’t heal as adult bones would, and without the proper treatment, the fracture can lead to permanent issues.
Could My Baby’s Fractures or Broken Bones Have Been Prevented?
Fractures and broken bones that occur during childbirth can usually be prevented with diligent, careful medical care during the labor and delivery period.
One of the most preventable measures is for physicians to detect fetal and/or maternal distress and schedule an emergency cesarean section (C-section) The majority of babies who experience fractures and/or broken bones were under great distress during delivery.
For example, sometimes a baby may be proportionately too small to pass through the mother’s cervix successfully –a condition called cephalopelvic disorder (CPD). During a normal delivery, a physician may pull improperly on the baby or use birth-assisting tools with too much force. Along with a heightened risk for broken bones and bruises, infants may also develop brachial plexus injuries. This issue could have potentially been eliminated with an emergency C-section.
Additionally, severe bruising and broken bones can happen during a normal delivery with no fetal or maternal distress. Sometimes inexperienced medical staff unnaturally pull or yank on the baby even though there is no cause for concern that the infant is in danger. Inexperienced medical staff members may also attempt to pick up the baby from their arms instead of securely from the back and neck.
In some instances, although extremely rare, an infant is dropped shortly after delivery.
How Do I Take Care of My Baby with Broken Bones or Fractures?
Medical intervention is always necessary if an infant experiences a broken bone or fracture. In fact, if a fracture occurs at the end of a bone, it may affect the growth of the bone. This requires immediate medical attention.
In most cases, fractures and broken bones are treated with splints or casts, medication, traction, closed reduction, and in severe cases, surgery.
Fortunately, in most situations, bones and fracture will heal after treatment, and the baby will be fine. Be certain to follow your physician’s medical advice after medical treatment, which may include ice compression and/or elevating the injured limb.