Newborn Brain Damage — Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


When a newborn suffers brain damage before, during, or shortly after birth, it can lead to a completely different life from the one the child and their family would have known if the injury had never occurred. The child may need extensive medical treatment, medication, therapy, and counseling and may face life with mental and/or physical disabilities. The family, too, may face significant financial strain and a constant need to adapt to new and daunting challenges. 

For this reason, it is important for anyone who believes their infant suffered harm at birth to seek help from an experienced Pasadena brain injury lawyer. The injury may result from negligence by medical professionals who should be held accountable for the impact on the baby and family. A lawyer with a background in brain injury cases can review your case and help you to understand your rights and options for seeking just compensation.

Common Causes of Brain Injuries in Infants

At the Law Offices of Pius Joseph, we have seen how brain injuries in infants often result from medical malpractice, or negligence. Harm can occur if medical professionals such as doctors, midwives, nurses, and anesthesiologists fail to use the proper degree of care, skill, and caution throughout the birthing process and its aftermath. 

Some conditions that often result from negligence during childbirth and lead to brain damage in newborns include: 

  • Oxygen deprivation – Asphyxia occurs when the child’s brain is completely (anoxia) or partially (hypoxia) deprived of oxygen. If the umbilical cord twists or becomes pinched during birth and is left unaddressed, it could cut off oxygen to the brain.
  • Physical trauma – For many reasons, medical professionals may need to use forceps or a vacuum extraction device to assist the baby’s delivery. If mishandled, the child may suffer a traumatic brain injury that leads to bleeding and other harm.
  • Maternal infections – Doctors must focus on whether the mother has developed any viral or bacterial infections throughout the pregnancy and delivery. If left undetected and untreated, an infection such as meningitis, rubella, or cytomegalovirus (CMV) could cause lasting damage.
  • Preeclampsia/eclampsia – This condition arises from a mother’s high blood pressure during pregnancy. It can lead to the restriction of blood to the child’s developing brain and increase the risk of the placenta separating early from the uterus (placental abruption). A doctor must monitor the mother’s blood pressure closely throughout the pregnancy and birth.
  • Jaundice – If a child develops jaundice, which results from the buildup of a pigment formed from the breakdown of red blood cells in the liver, it can cause a type of brain damage that ultimately leads to cerebral palsy. This damage is a condition called kernicterus. It often results from the failure to timely diagnose and treat jaundice.
  • Umbilical cord problems – If the umbilical cord develops a knot or wraps around the child’s neck, it can cut off the flow of oxygen and lead to severe harm to the brain. 

Finding out the cause of a child’s brain damage from childbirth typically requires consulting with an independent medical professional. A doctor, for instance, can review medical records and may identify preventable medical errors that occurred in the process.

Signs and Symptoms of Newborn Brain Damage

If you recently became a parent, you should be aware of the symptoms of brain injury in newborns. During the immediate aftermath of the birth, indications of brain damage may be: 

  • Failure to cry at birth or emitting a faint cry
  • Requiring resuscitation immediately upon delivery
  • Scoring low on the Apgar chart for an extended period
  • Developing fever, low blood pressure, seizures, feeding difficulties, and/or breathing problems

As the child grows, signs of brain damage may become physical. The child may have stiff muscles and struggle to move, eat, and drink. The appearance of the child’s spine, head, and forehead may also indicate that the child suffered an injury to the brain during birth. Some children are sensitive to light or may struggle to control their eye movements.

Not all of the signs of brain damage in infants are physical. Some other symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty with communication 
  • Inability to control emotions 
  • Learning disorders

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

Diagnosing and Treating Brain Damage in Babies

The sooner brain damage is detected in an infant, the sooner treatment can begin. This treatment can be critical to saving the child’s life and preventing the damage from reaching severe levels. In addition to conducting blood tests and checking for physical signs of brain injury, a doctor may also order an MRI or other tests. Unfortunately, many infants suffer irreversible brain damage due to the lack of a timely diagnosis. 

The brain is complex. Treatment for a brain injury suffered during childbirth can be complex as well. It will depend on the type of brain injury and severity of damage the brain suffered. For instance, a child may develop a condition known as cerebral palsy, requiring a lifetime of care and assistance. Typically, brain damage treatment involves a combination of: 

  • Medication 
  • Assistive devices or mobility aids
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Behavioral treatment
  • Educational counseling

For many families living with a child with a brain injury, simply finding the right medical care and living assistance can be a never-ending challenge. When faced with those circumstances, it can be understandably difficult for a parent to have the time to pursue a legal claim or deal with an insurance company.

Can I File a Brain Injury Lawsuit in California?

If a medical professional’s negligence caused a child’s brain injury, that professional should be held accountable, and the child and family should be fairly compensated. It should really be as simple as that. However, lawsuits alleging brain injury during childbirth typically involve complex investigation and litigation. 

For this reason, you should consult with an experienced and dedicated Pasadena brain injury lawyer if you believe your child has suffered a brain injury due to medical negligence. We can take immediate steps to protect your legal rights, including dealing with insurance companies. However, while the Law Offices of Pius Joseph may move quickly, we won’t take shortcuts. We are committed to fighting for you and your family all the way to trial, if that is what it takes.

Contact an Experienced Pasadena Brain Injury Lawyer Today

Don’t hesitate to get legal advice from a Pasadena personal injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Pius Joseph if your family believes your child suffers from brain damage caused during childbirth. Call or contact us today to discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation. Our goal is to protect you, your family, and your future.