Medications for Birth Injuries

There are various medications that can help treat birth injuries.

In the United States alone, birth injuries occur in one out of every 1,000 infants. Some birth injuries are mild and babies will go on to heal successfully without the need for treatment. Other birth injuries, however, can be serious and may result in long-term health problems and pain.

Fortunately, there are a number of medications that have proven effective in helping injured babies and children. Below, we provide information on some of the medications that are common when treating birth injuries.

Medication for Cerebral Palsy

Although cerebral palsy is not a birth injury in itself, many injuries that happen at birth can lead to the disorder. Cerebral palsy covers a wide medical spectrum, therefore there are a number of medications that can help treat it, depending on the severity of the disorder. For example, some infants and children may only require physical and occupational therapy, while others may need a variety of medications. The most common medications for cerebral palsy include:

Anticholinergics

Anticholinergic medications are generally used to help control tremors, spasms, muscle stiffness, and uncontrollable body movements. Although it provides only temporary relief, anticholinergic medications have proven effective for many people who live with cerebral palsy. It works by blocking the body’s neurotransmitters that causes uncontrollable muscle movement and spasms.

In addition, anticholinergic medications help reduce excessive drooling, bronchial secretions, and digestive tract secretions. The most common types of anticholinergics prescribed for cerebral palsy include:

  • Glycopyrrolate
  • Trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride
  • Procyclidine hydrochloride
  • Benztropine mesylate
  • Carbidopa-levodopa

Anticonvulsants

Many babies and children who have cerebral palsy experience seizures. Anticonvulsant medications help people cope with seizures by suppressing brain stimulation. Anticonvulsants also help with mood disorders in some instances.There are a number of different types of anticonvulsant medications, and it’s important that your child follows the physician’s dosage directions closely. In some cases, a certain type of anticonvulsant may not work as well as another type, or the child may become immune to a certain type, and require a different form.

Phenobarbital, a barbituate, is most commonly prescribed to infants and toddlers with brain damage who have uncontrollable seizures.  Other common anticonvulsant medications prescribed for those who have cerebral palsy include:

  • Gabapentin
  • Topiramate
  • Zonisamide
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Lamotrigine

Antispastics

An unfortunate side effect of cerebral palsy is stiff (hypertonic muscle), sore, and overactive muscles. Similar to anticholinergics, antispastic medications work by reducing all-over body tremors and spasticity. Antispastics are generally the first type of medication prescribed to help battle these issues.

Antispastic medication can be given orally or administered via an injection into the muscles. Sometimes a baclofen pump is needed for severe muscle spasms and stiffness. Baclofen pumps are usually surgically-inserted into the abdomen to deliver the medicine to the fluids surrounding the spinal cord, and works continuously. 

The most common types of antispastic medications for cerebral palsy include:

  • Baclofen
  • Flexeril
  • Tizanidine
  • Dantrolene
  • Diazepam 

Medications for Brachial Plexus Injuries

According to the New York University’s Department of Neurosurgery, there are not any particular medications to speed up recovery for brachial plexus injuries. However, doctors often prescribe pain medication for children who undergo surgery for their injuries.

For those who do not need surgery, treatments include physical and occupational therapy. In some instances, no treatments at all are needed and the baby will go on to heal naturally.

Keep in mind that brachial plexus injuries cover numerous types of disorders, such as Erb’s palsy, Klumpke’s palsy, and neuropraxia.

Medications for Birth Injuries

Unfortunately, birth injuries tend to take a toll on children, not just physically, but mentally as well. As children with birth injuries grow older, there is a chance of experiencing social limitations and behavioral problems. Sometimes this is due to bullying, whereas other times it is dealing with limitations that can often be frustrating and confusing.

Antidepressants

Antidepressant medications are not uncommon for children who live with birth injuries. In fact, many physicians prescribe antidepressants to treat both anxiety and social issues, as well as seizures and spasticity, at the same time. If a child is experiencing anxiety and/or depression, the symptoms of the disorder may increase. For example, a child with cerebral palsy who is also depressed may worsen the condition with increased fatigue, muscle spasms, and pain.

Research suggests that children with medical disorders are more likely to experience anxiety and depression as children may experience an inability to cope with physical problems and limitations. The most common antidepressants prescribed to children include:

  • Zoloft 
  • Lexapro
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Luvox
  • Celexa

Pain Medication

Pain is common among babies and children who’ve experienced birth injuries. Doctors prescribe medications to relieve pain, particularly anti-inflammatory medicines, to children to help manage pain and inflammation. Pain control medication can be over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription based, depending upon how severe the symptoms are.

Pain can range from mild discomfort to agonizing discomfort that lasts for hours. It can be triggered by physical exercise or because of side effects associated with the birth injury. The most common types of pain medications recommended for children and babies include:

  • Aspirin
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Steroids 
  • Corticosteroids

Keep in mind, however, that not all of these medications are safe for babies and children. It’s extremely important to work with your child’s doctor to ensure the right medications are given and that they work effectively.

Warnings about Medications for Birth Injuries

Almost all medications have side effects. With children, these side effects may be worse given their size and weight. Make sure that you clearly understand the pros and cons of each type of medication beforehand, so that you’ll know what to expect. Common side effects of the aforementioned medications may include insomnia, dry mouth, headaches, nausea, and more. Your child’s physician should be able to answer any pertinent medication questions you have.

Taking more than one medication at a time may also lead to drug interactions, causing serious side effects. Never administer medication to your child without prior physician approval, including any OTC medicines.

Stephanie Baumhover, PharmD, BCPS

Page Medically Reviewed By Stephanie Baumhover, PharmD, BCPS

Stephanie Baumhover, PharmD, BCPS, is a skilled pharmacist with experience in medical information, communications, critical care, pediatrics and managed care. She is a skilled medical writer, and is a regular medical reviewer for Birth Injury Guide.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.

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