Fans Suspect the Newest Duggar Baby Has a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Instagram photos from proud mom Jessa Duggar, now Jessa Seewald, are prompting speculation about the health of the newest addition to the “Counting On” family.  Eagle-eyed fans admiring pictures of the newborn spotted classic signs of a subconjunctival hemorrhage, also called a subconjunctival hematoma. Fans pointed out the bright red discoloration in the white of the eye. Discoloration that could indicate a ruptured blood vessel.

Jessa Seewald has a compelling Instagram presence.  She frequently posts pictures of her children and family life, and her fans can’t seem to get enough.  When she introduced her newborn to the world via Instagram, her fan base had a lot to say about little Ivy Jane.

subconjunctival hemorrhage, Counting on, Duggar
Source: Jessa Seewald Instagram

Dotted among comments about Ivy’s blue eyes and thick black hair are expressions of concern for her health.

Worrisome Skin Tone?

Several fans commented on the baby’s skin tone.  Some asking why she looks so red with one even going so far as to ask why she is “purple?” A debate sprung up among followers about whether Ivy’s skin tone is normal.  Seewald did not respond regarding any of the speculations about Ivy’s health. However, it’s safe to say the baby’s red appearance is a natural and healthy outcome of a home birth.

According to Stanford Children’s Health, normal skin tones for newborn babies range from dark red to purple.  Skin tone gradually lightens over the first weeks of life.  Babies born without the use of an epidural tend to be redder than babies whose mothers choose the pain-relief intervention.  Even without any details confirmed by the Seewald family, it is certainly reasonable to assume a home birth did not involve an epidural.  Consequently, the birth would result in a particularly pink newborn.

When to Worry About a Newborn’s Skin Tone

Red skin color is not what should alarm new parents, but rather they should be alert for a yellow cast of complexion.  Yellow skin and eyes are the symptom of jaundice, and virtually all babies experience it to a degree in the first few days of life.

Severe jaundice, however, is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention.  The yellow discoloration comes from an excess of bilirubin, the by-product of breaking down red blood cells that the newborn’s immature liver cannot process effectively.  Bilirubin is toxic to brain tissue and an overabundance can lead to kernicterus – a serious complication that damages the baby’s brain.

Red Marks in the Eye – Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?

At about one month of age, Ivy Jane Seewald is past the age of concern for severe jaundice, but fans still have concerns about her bonnie blue eyes.  In two of the Instagram photos shared by Jessa Seewald, the newborn has a distinctive red mark in the white of her right eye adjacent to the iris.  Fans could not help but comment and ask about the mark.  Again, fans continue to express concern for the baby’s health.

Other fans leapt into the fray to share stories of their own newborn babies with a similar mark in the eye.  The fans’ consensus? Ivy Jane has a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

What is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a condition in which the tiny blood vessels within the eye rupture.  Prompted by stress or pressure, it is not unheard of for babies to experience busted blood vessels in the eye after a normal vaginal delivery.  One study showed about 1.4 percent of live births involve a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

This condition can happen at any age and for a variety of factors including:

  • Strenuous exercise
  • High fevers
  • Use of anticoagulant medications, like warfarin-based products
  • Vascular disease
  • Trauma to the eye area
  • Contact lens usage

In newborns, many cases of subconjunctival hemorrhage are caused by the pressure on the infant’s head in the birth canal.

Is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Serious?

Most cases of subconjunctival hemorrhage are not serious.  Usually the condition will clear up without any treatment after several weeks.  There is no approved treatment for a subconjunctival hemorrhage.  Luckily, there are no pain receptors on the surface of the eye, so the redness does not cause babies any pain.  In some cases it may trigger itchiness, or the baby may attempt to rub at the eye.  In these cases, a physician will recommend the use of artificial tears.

More severe subconjunctival hemorrhages may not resolve on their own and can result in permanent damage to the eye.  A complication of this sort is rare.  In most cases of subconjunctival hemorrhage, the concern is that the busted blood vessels are only a symptom of an underlying and much more serious injury.

When is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage a Birth Injury?

In some cases, this condition is not the normal consequence of a vaginal delivery but rather the evidence of trauma or an early symptom of facial paralysis.  When a subconjunctival hemorrhage is caused by a physician or midwife’s negligent actions, and when it is the symptom of severe trauma, the condition is a birth injury.

Long and difficult labor can place unnecessary prolonged pressure on a baby’s head prior to birth.  Though a subconjunctival hemorrhage is generally not serious, severe pressure that causes the hemorrhage is usually not good for babies and is best avoided if possible.

During long and difficult labor, responsible medical providers should use fetal monitoring to detect any signs of fetal distress due to pressure or other factors.  This way, they can act immediately to deliver the baby via Cesarean section (C-section) if necessary.  Delaying birth for too long, or failing to perform a C-section, can be cause for a birth injury lawsuit if the newborn is harmed as a result.

The Use of Excessive Force During Delivery

Among babies born vaginally, a subconjunctival hemorrhage may be a sign of birth injury.  The use of excessive force during delivery can cause this condition and be a warning of the presence of more severe injuries.  Using excessive force during delivery is most commonly associated with the use of delivery assistance tools, such as forceps or vacuum extractors.

Applying these tools too forcefully can produce the pressure that causes a subconjunctival hemorrhage and may indicate more serious birth injuries such as:

Diagnosing Infant Subconjunctival Hemorrhage 

Parents can identify signs of a subconjunctival hemorrhage by looking for the telltale bright red discoloration in the eye.  After experiencing trauma, the redness usually appears fairly quickly.  If your baby doesn’t have a busted blood vessel in the eye, there should be no red marks in the eye.  This is, of course, unless the child experiences head trauma during that time.

Doctors can diagnose the condition by a simple visual inspection.  Again, it is usually not a cause for concern, though its appearance is quite startling.  After the initial appearance of the hemorrhage, the redness may cover all the white of the eye before receding back to yellow and then white.  If the redness doesn’t improve within a couple of weeks, parents should seek medical attention.

The important next step after observing the hemorrhage is to determine whether it indicates more serious symptoms of trauma, which can be difficult in a newborn baby.  Diagnosis of serious conditions such as brain damage or cerebral palsy can take months or even a year.

Did Your Baby Suffer Trauma During Birth?

It is natural for friends and family members to express concerns about a newborn’s health, especially if her or she appears discolored or injured in any way.  However, it is best to leave diagnosis up to medical professionals.  For parents, if you suspect that your child was injured during birth, first of all, seek medical attention to address your concerns.

Next, contact a birth injury attorney if you suspect that your medical team failed to provide you and your child with the care to which you are entitled.  At Birth Injury Guide, our legal professionals can address your concerns and answer questions about your options.  If you have an actionable claim, you may be able to recover the cost of your baby’s medical bills.

Whether your child suffered a subconjunctival hemorrhage, physical trauma, or any other birth injury, it is important to act fast.  Get started by calling 1-877-415-6603 or contacting us online.

Birth Injury Guide

Written By BIG Staff

The team at Birth Injury Guide is comprised of lawyers, doctors, nurses and professional writers. We strive to provide up-to-date content that is accurate and relevant to the needs of families affected by birth injuries.