Newborn and Mother in hospitalNewborns are highly vulnerable during the neonatal phase as a lot can happen during this time. Newborns suffering from injury right after birth are not unheard of. For the parents of a newborn, discovering that their baby has acquired birth injury is heartbreaking, to say the least.

There are many different ways a baby can get injured during delivery. For example, it could be due to the umbilical cord getting compressed, which leads to oxygen deprivation. It could also be due to excessive shifting of the infant’s skull during delivery, causing brain damage.

Cerebral Compression and Excessive Head Molding: What You Need to Know

During labor, the baby’s head is subjected to excessive pressure related to the contractions of the uterus. The repeated sequence of uterine contraction and relaxation, in conjunction with the mother’s pushing efforts, helps push the baby out.

  • The baby’s skull is still soft and flexible, and subject to the excessive contraction of the uterine muscles may contribute to abnormal head molding.
  • Excessive pressure on a baby’s head may lead to a cerebral compression injury, which can result in brain damage. It can happen even if the head shape seems normal.
  • Excessive fetal head compression can cut off blood and oxygen supply (hypoxia) to the baby’s brain and slow down the fetal heart rate. Severe and prolonged hypoxia may result in brain damage, and to some extent, death.
  • Complications, such as uterine hyperstimulation (by administering drugs to induce contraction), stalled or prolonged labor, or cephalopelvic disproportion, can also contribute to excess cranial pressure.
  • Excessive head molding occurs when there is too much and forceful uterine contraction, prolonged labor, malpositioned fetal head, or the improper use of vacuum extractors or forceps. It can also be a combination of the said factors.

It is More Serious Than We Believe

In 2019, French researchers conducted a study on just how much the babies’ heads (the skulls and brains) undergo stress during labor. Using three-dimensional 3D-MRI, they were able to capture incredibly detailed images of skulls and brains as it goes through the advanced stages of labor. Researchers observed that all of the babies involved in their study experienced varying degrees of head molding.

Their findings: the babies’ heads go through significant stress during birth even more than what had been previously known. They were surprised at the extent of the head squishing as the baby moved through the birth canal. Several sections of the newborn’s skull compress and overlaps as it passes through, giving it a distorted appearance.

They have observed that most of the babies’ head returned to its pre-birth state soon after delivery, but a few did not. Those whose head shape remained the same upon delivery are attributed to having different skull elasticity, among other factors.

Avoiding Cerebral Compression

The biggest responsibility when it comes to preventing the occurrence of cerebral compression during labor and delivery falls on the medical practitioner. He or she must ensure the safety of the labor and delivery process. It entails proper monitoring of the situation to avoid hypoxic, ischemic, and mechanical stresses that could lead to neurological injury.

  • When the situation calls for it, the labor and delivery units must promptly perform C-section delivery.
  • Medical professionals should be able to recognize complications and carefully monitor, detect, and diagnose possible birth injuries.
  • Medical professionals should also use delivery assistance tools correctly and responsibly to avoid inflicting neonatal brain injury.
  • Fetal Reserve Index or FRI is a high-performance monitoring system that can detect injury during labor. With this, any possible birth injury is given immediate medical intervention before it could worsen or even happen.

Legal Help for Medical Errors Leading to Birth Injuries

Understanding how and why birth injuries occur, like what the French researchers did last year, offers a good springboard for the medical society to try and find the best possible solution. The research findings also encourage medical practitioners to duly examine a pregnant woman’s risk factors to prevent complications leading to birth injuries during labor and delivery.

What could have been a joyous moment can easily become a nightmare for the parents when doctors fail to do their job. One negligent action or a small medical error before, during or immediately post-delivery can have drastic consequences that can alter the life of the child and even the parents.

If you are among these parents and your child suffered a birth injury due to errors and medical negligence, our savvy lawyers at the Clark Law Office can help. Our experienced, skilled, and compassionate attorney will look beyond the “nothing could be done” defense of doctors. They will help you recover the maximum available compensation for your child. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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