How can brain injuries occur during birth?

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2023 | Birth Injuries

The process of childbirth is remarkable and complex, but it comes with potential risks, including the possibility of brain injuries occurring in newborns.

These injuries can have profound and long-lasting effects on a child’s development and quality of life. Timely and appropriate medical care, along with proper prenatal care, can help mitigate the risks.

Hypoxia and anoxia

One of the leading causes of brain injuries during birth is hypoxia and anoxia. Hypoxia refers to a decreased supply of oxygen to the baby’s brain and affects as many as 9,000 to 12,000 infants in the United States every year.

Meanwhile, anoxia is a complete lack of oxygen. These conditions can occur due to complications such as a compressed umbilical cord, placental issues or problems with the baby’s airway. When the brain does not receive an adequate oxygen supply, it can lead to damage or even cell death, affecting cognitive and physical development.

Traumatic birth

Sometimes, brain injuries can occur due to the traumatic nature of the birth process itself. The use of forceps, vacuum extraction or excessive pulling during delivery can result in head injuries, including bleeding within the baby’s brain or damage to the delicate tissues. These injuries can have lasting consequences, such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities or developmental delays.


Infections that the mother may have during pregnancy, such as rubella or toxoplasmosis, can potentially affect the developing fetal brain. Additionally, if babies are born prematurely, their underdeveloped immune system makes them more susceptible to infections, which can cause brain damage if not promptly treated.


Jaundice commonly occurs in newborns, and it manifests with yellowing of the skin and eyes from a buildup of bilirubin. While mild jaundice is typically harmless, severe cases left untreated can lead to a condition called kernicterus, in which high levels of bilirubin can cause brain damage. Regular monitoring and treatment for jaundice are necessary to prevent this from occurring.

Brain injuries during birth can have lifelong consequences, affecting a child’s cognitive and physical development. Understanding the various ways in which these injuries can occur is important for health care professionals and expectant parents.


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