Type, Prevalence, and Effects of Brain Injury at Birth: Facts and Statistics


The process of labor and delivery can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances. When unfortunate circumstances arise, or mistakes are made, the process can result in devastating injuries, including brain injuries. Brain injury at birth is among the most devastating injuries an infant can sustain, and often results in lifelong consequences.

Common Forms of Brain Injury at Birth

Brain injury at birth can stem from several complications, and can result in numerous injuries and disabilities. The most common brain injuries occurring during birth include:

  • Mild Injuries: Mild brain injuries include injuries like hematoma, fracture, or mild bleeding on the brain
  • Moderate Injuries: Moderate injuries may include more serious fractures or bleeding, oxygen deprivation, or subdural hemorrhage
  • Severe Injuries: Severe subdural hemorrhages can result in pressure on the brain resulting in seizures or high bilirubin levels. Severe intraventricular hemorrhages affect the brain tissue, and result in underdevelopment of the brain. One of the most devastating forms of severe brain injury is trauma to the head, which can result in any combination of these injuries in additional to others.

Birth Injury Statistics and Facts

While the overall number of birth injuries reported in the United States has decreased in recent decades, the risk is still very real. Some of the most startling statistics include the following:

  • One in 9,714 U.S. births include a birth injury
  • Approximately 28,000 birth injuries are reported every year in the U.S.
  • The National Healthcare Quality Report estimates that 5.08/1000 birth injuries occurred to female infants, while 6.68/1000 birth injuries occurred to male infants.
  • The most common forms of birth injuries include brachial plexus injuries (Erb’s palsy), fractures, hematoma, subdural and intracranial hemorrhage, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and oxygen deprivation.
  • Rural births are 33-times more likely to result in birth injury than urban births.
  • Of all births in 2006 alone, it is estimated that more than 157,000 injuries could have possibly been avoided.

The number of potentially preventable birth injuries indicates that there is a significant deficit in the overall standards of care observed by doctors and hospitals. While even the most conscientious healthcare provider can make mistakes, negligence is a serious problem, and one for which healthcare providers should be held accountable.