Birth Trauma - Causes, Effects & Recovery

Birth Trauma

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Are you worried about your delivery, as you just heard from your friend about birth injuries which affect a child lifelong? Or did someone narrate her experience of how the baby was not in in the right position and had to be pulled out, leading to bruises and scratches? Are you thinking of ways to get the baby into an ideal position so that your delivery would be safe?

If you are thinking on the same lines as just discussed, we are here to help you. This post brings to you what birth trauma is all about, how it could happen, what are its effects and the ways to recover from it. Are you ready? Then read on.

What Is Birth Trauma?

During the birth process, the mechanical forces like compression, traction could lead to injuries in infants, and that is known as Birth Trauma. Usually in the process of delivery, a damage of tissues or organs could happen to babies as a result of physical pressure resulting in birth trauma.[1][2]

What Are The Causes Of Birth Trauma?

Birth trauma could be physical- like a cut, bruise, fracture or even a chronic condition. Most of the developing countries like Africa and Asia has have more cases of birth trauma. However, even in the US 2 % of births are affected by birth trauma, but mainly physical. [3]

The primary reason of injuries is the weight of the infant. Many of the infants who are larger than an average infant in terms of weight or baby size is more, compared to the mother’s pelvic area, suffer from birth trauma. The reason being that most doctors use instruments to enforce a delivery, or apply force to get the baby out. And at times, doctors are not extra cautious and could apply harsh force; it could result in childbirth trauma. Here are some of the common conditions which could lead to birth injuries in newborn:

  • Babies whose birth weight is more than 4000 grams.
  • Extended labor.
  • Dystocia – difficult labor or delivery.
  • Baby births before 37thweek of pregnancy.
  • The mother’s pelvis may not be in perfect shape to deliver a baby normally or safely.

[ Read: Stages Of Childbirth ]

What Are The Different Types Of Birth Trauma?

As per the stats, most of the injuries are caused to the head, the neck or the shoulders as the baby is delivered with his head first. But injuries to other body parts are also a part of the trauma of birth. The most common traumatic injuries are [3].

1. Caput Succedaneum:

In this condition babies, scalps could swell or may get bruises. This condition arises due to the following reasons:

  • During childbirth when pressure gets applied to the baby’s scalp from the vaginal wall and mother’s uterus.
  • If the mother has undergone a long and difficult labor, it could cause some bruises on the baby’s scalp.
  • When the water bag bursts and the baby’s head is vulnerable while he passes through the birth canal.
  • If doctors use vacuum extraction devices.

2. Cephalohematoma:

It’s a condition where you can see blood getting accumulated under the baby’s periosteum (it’s a shielding membrane, protecting the baby’s skull). After numerous hours of delivery, this is noticeable on the baby’s skull.

In most of the cases, it is not harmful as it fades away after a few weeks or months. The blood which was on the skull is absorbed by the back by of the body, making the lump disappear. However in some cases it can cause jaundice if the lumps are too big and don’t break down easily.

3. Bruising and Broken Bones:

Bruising could occur on the face, neck, head or/and other parts of the body because of any of the following reasons:

  • Physical tension while passing through the birth canal.
  • Make Contact with tissues and bones when in the pelvic area.
  • Use of birthing instruments could leave a mark and could also fracture a bone.
  • The usage of vacuum extraction may cause bruises in the scalp.

Bruising may occur on a baby’s face, head, and other body parts due to the physical stresses of the passage through the birth canal. And also due to contact with bones and tissue in the mother’s pelvis. The use of birthing instruments like forceps during delivery may also leave scars on a newborn’s head or face, especially when doctors use too much energy. In addition, vacuum extraction might cause a gash or a bruise on a baby’s scalp.

4. Subconjunctival Hemorrhage:

You might have observed a red band surrounding the iris in a newborns eye. That condition is known as Subconjunctival hemorrhage. When some of the small blood vessels break in a baby’s eye, it forms this red band around the iris. It’s not a permanent damage to the eye, and within a few weeks or months you may see it vanishing, as the body reabsorbs the blood.

5. Bell’s Palsy:

It’s a condition where infants facial nerves get hurt while in labor or during delivery. It could be due to the following reasons:

  • Pressure on the infant’s face while he is passing through the birth canal.
  • The usage of birthing instruments.


  • When babies cry, they are not able to move the muscle where the nerves are broken.
  • Even the eye of the impacted side remains open.


  • If it’s just a bruise, it will be healed by itself.
  • Nerve tearing is a bit severe, and only surgery could restore it.

[ Read: Birth Defects ]

6. Brachial Plexus Injury:

A brachial plexus is a network of nerves that connects the spinal cord to the baby’s arms and hands. And an injury to this area is called as Brachial Plexus Injury. These could be due to the following reasons:

Complicated delivery: For, e.g., the baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal, and the doctor has to apply force to get him out.


  • The Baby may not be able to move or rotate his impacted arm.


  • If it’s just a bruise, it gets healed by itself within a few weeks or months.
  • If there is total damage to the nerve, it could result in permanent loss.

7. Oxygen Deprivation:

This condition is when the baby is not getting enough supply of oxygen during delivery, pre-birth and after delivery (in some cases).It could be due to the following reasons:

  • Separation of the placenta from the baby.
  • The Umbilical cord gets tied up in around the baby’s neck.
  • After delivery, if the baby doesn’t start breathing independently that could also cause oxygen deprivation in an infant.

Side Effects:

  • It could damage the baby’s cerebellum, which is responsible for body functioning.
  • It could lead to cerebral palsy, where the child is not able to control his movement, muscle tone or posture.
  • It could also lead to hearing troubles to hearing problems and partial or total blindness.
  • If the baby doesn’t breathe for three minutes after delivery, it could result in destroying the brain cells and causing seizures or coma.

8. Fractures:

It’s the common injury linked with the birth trauma. This condition arises mostly due to the following reasons:

  • Positioning of the baby (i.e.head up or breech positions).


  • The Baby may not be able to move the impacted area.


  • A soft bandage could be used to prevent sudden a push of the body part until the fracture heals.

Although, birth trauma, as the name suggests, seems to be a horrifying experience but mostly all injuries heal by themselves. However, the healing also depends on an individual and the severity of the condition. It’s advisable to doctors to foresee medical risks and take proactive measures to avoid birth trauma in babies.

Do you have any experience to share with us regarding birth traumas? Do let us know in comments section.

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