Birth Injury Symptoms

Most birth injuries involve serious complications that can lead to permanent disabilities and disfigurement, especially if not treated immediately. Left untreated, birth injuries can develop into severe consequences that can also lead to your child developing a brain trauma or paralysis. Some symptoms of birth injuries can be caught while your baby is still in the hospital, whereas some signs of birth injuries aren’t seen until your child develops through growth stages or begins school. However, although some symptoms take a while surface, there are a few signs that can be detected immediately that may possibly point to birth injuries.

Symptoms that are Immediately Apparent

There are quite a few symptoms that are immediately apparent after a birth injury, but keep in mind that these symptoms may also indicate other health conditions. Always consult with a physician before assuming your child has a brain injury.

Actions Symptoms:

  • Arched back while crying
  • Breathlessness
  • Difficulties with sucking, eating, and swallowing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive fussiness for no apparent reason
  • Grunting and/or high-pitched crying
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Light sensitivity
  • Seizures

Other symptoms may not necessarily appear as an action from the baby, but instead can be detected via health issues. For instance, the baby might not be exhibiting behaviors outwardly that something is wrong, but their general health is communicating that something is wrong.

Health-Related Symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Changes in vision
  • Fever
  • High-frequency hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Hypertension or hypotension
  • Inflamed nasal passages
  • Low heart rate
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood
  • Persistent coughing
  • Poor weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Wheezing
  • Jaundice
  • Paleness and/or wax-like appearance to the skin

In most instances, infants may demonstrate symptoms that are both health-related and action-related, as well as muscle and bone-related symptoms.

Muscle and Bone Symptoms:

  • Arm and/or hand bent towards the body
  • The hand may curl up and take on a claw-like shape
  • Skull fractures
  • Spasms
  • Muscle stiffness or looseness (muscles may alternate between the two)
  • Weak movements
  • Weak or absent reflexes
  • Writhing movements
  • Hairy patch on the back
  • Favoring one side of the body

Symptoms That May Surface Between 12-24 Months of Age

 As mentioned earlier, not all symptoms are immediately apparent. Although a birth injury may have happened just before, during, or after delivery, the body takes a while to demonstrate its symptoms, sometimes into toddler-hood. The common birth injury symptoms that appear during the toddler years include:

  • Ataxia (the loss of the full use of bodily movements)
  • Delay in motor skill development
  • Difficulties in walking normally
  • Intellectual disabilities (memory, inability connecting actions to consequences, explosive tantrums, difficulty problem solving, or difficulty with logical thinking)
  • Difficulties with problem-solving
  • Involuntary pulling of the neck
  • Lack of muscle control
  • Poor control over coordination
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulties dressing alone, potty training, and grasping spoons to eat

Developmental Milestones

Infants, toddlers, and children who frequently miss developmental milestones is an indication of possible birth injuries. In order to understand which milestones your child may be missing, it’s important to understand what development milestones are and the average age in which most children reach the milestones:

2 to 4 months old:

  • Turns head when noises are heard
  • Coos and smiles
  • Follows people with eyes and recognizes faces
  • Holds head up
  • Can reach and grasp objects
  • Pushes up on elbows if lying on stomach

6 to 9 months old:

  • Brings objects to mouth
  • Looks around easily at nearby objects
  • Rolls over from back to front and front to back
  • Can pass objects from one hand to the other hand
  • Sits alone without assistance
  • Can bounce when standing on the ground, with assistance
  • Can pick up small things with fingers
  • Begins to crawl
  • Bears down weight on legs when standing, with assistance
  • Understands different words and sounds

1 years old:

  • Explores and finds hidden objects
  • May be able to walk or can walk while holding on to furniture
  • Understands simple instructions, such as putting something in the trash
  • Starts to say words

18 months old:

  • Can scribble alone
  • Stands and walks
  • Eats with a spoon without assistance
  • Drinks from a cup without assistance
  • Can say a variety of single words
  • Understands one-step instructions
  • Points to objects they want to play with

2-3 years old:

  • Knows body parts and is familiar with family members
  • Begins to complete sentences and understand rhymes
  • Can run and kick a ball
  • Walks up and down stairs without assistance
  • Can draw straight lines and circle shapes
  • Knows and says name and age
  • Can dress and undress without assistance

4-5 years old:

  • Begins to cooperate with other kids
  • Uses scissors
  • Can hop and stand on one foot for short periods of time
  • Retells favorite stories
  • Understand basic grammar and songs
  • Uses the toilet without assistance
  • Climbs without assistance

Keep in mind that only a physician can diagnose disabilities and disorders. If your child is behind in developmental milestones, it doesn’t automatically mean they’ve suffered a birth injury. However, it’s important to get medical help if your child is consistently missing milestones, especially if your child is also showing other birth injury symptoms.

Symptoms That May Reveal Years Later

Not all birth injury symptoms will appear during infancy and the toddler years. In fact, some children live with a birth injury unbeknownst to them and their parents until they enter school. Symptoms that surface years later are typically cognitive-related, such as problems with fine motor skills, developmental disabilities such as Asperger’s syndrome, ADD/ADHD, and autism.

Although there is controversy surrounding how ADD, Asperger’s, and autism develop, experts have suggested that at least 60 to 80% of children who experience ADD/ADHD also experienced some form of minor birth trauma during delivery. This most often occurs when birth-assisting tools such as forceps or a vacuum extraction are used. When infants are delivered with the help of birthing tools, their heads are typically pulled backwards, similar to whiplash. Meanwhile, several nerves in the infant’s head are compressed, and in some instance, the cranial membranes are torn, which hinders the fluids to the part of the brain that controls emotions and behavior.

In addition, a study performed by the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine states that difficulties during delivery are linked to autism. Neonatal anemia, meconium aspiration, incompatible blood types between mother and baby, and infants with a low birth weight all factor into the risk of developing autism. Maternal hemorrhage doubles the risk. 

“Reduced oxygen supply, during labor, during delivery, during the prenatal period, during early infancy, could influence autism risk,” said epidemiologist Hannah Gardener, ScD.