A swollen head and nerve injuries to the neck are just some of the injuries baby may sustain during delivery.

Every mother hopes to deliver a healthy child safely into this world. However, birth injuries can still occur because of several factors.

SmartParents expert and Gleneagles Hospital ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong explains that different level of risks come with different delivery methods. He points out that C-sections are considered to be safer for the baby and vaginal deliveries safer for mothers.

The injury risk to babies will be higher in deliveries involving instruments like forceps and vacuum.

“The injury risk to babies will be higher in deliveries involving instruments like forceps and vacuum.”

Obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Peter Chew and Dr Chong list other factors that may increase the trauma risk to babies:

* Position of the baby Babies are often delivered head first. However, your foetus may also be in a transverse positive — the head and legs on either side of the womb — or the breech position — coming out feet first. These positions may pose a higher injury risk.

* Size of your baby Genetics, gestational diabetes and an overdue baby are all possible causes of a larger-sized baby. Depending on the size of your pelvic cavity, opting for a natural birth if you’re expecting a large baby may result in injuries for both you and your child.

* Angle of your baby’s head If your baby is looking sideways, upwards or his chin is lowered toward his chest, it can all lead to a greater birth trauma risk. Dr Chong explains that how the baby’s head is angled impacts his ease of going through the birth canal.

Based on his experiences, serious injuries such as brain or nerve ones and bone fractures are uncommon, Dr Chew says. “Minor injuries like abrasions, cuts on the face, cephalohaematoma tend to be more common.”

If you suspect your child may be suffering from any birth injuries, you should approach a neonatologist for further medical assistance. The experts provide details on common birthing injuries your infant may encounter…

1. Cephalohaematoma

WHAT? An accumulation of blood in the space between an infant’s scalp and his skull, which causes the top of your baby’s head to swell. This condition also puts your child at a higher risk of developing jaundice.
CAUSES Usually from vacuum or forceps deliveries. Larger foetuses, which tend to spend more time in the birth canal, are subjected to greater amounts of compression and stress as it travels between the pelvic bones.
RECOVERY The accumulation of blood under your baby’s skin should resolve naturally, usually by three months.


2. Cuts and Bruises

WHAT? Larger than average babies are more likely to experience these minor injuries because of the mother’s small pelvic area. If you’re delivering a larger baby, your doc may need to use his hands to help your baby move through the birth canal. If he applies too much physical force when handling your baby, it can result in cuts and bruises.
CAUSES Abrasions, lacerations and cuts on the face can happen in C-sections or deliveries when instruments are used, Dr Chew notes.
RECOVERY Depends on how extensive these cuts and bruises are. For minor injuries, recovery can be as fast as within a couple of days.

Abrasions, lacerations and cuts on the face can happen in C-sections or deliveries when instruments are used.

3. Fractures

WHAT? The size of your pelvis matters during labour. Dr Chong says your child may sustain fractures to his upper limbs — like arms and shoulders — or collar bones. There are also instances where the skull fractures may be caused by the improper handling of tools or the use of too much force to extract your baby. Usually signs like swelling, redness and bruising can be observed around the affected area.
CAUSES Other forms of deliveries, except C-sections, carry a greater risk of this form of birth trauma.
RECOVERY TIME Dr Chew notes that the recovery period for bone injuries may take anything from weeks to months, depending on how serious these injuries are.

4. Subconjunctival haemorrhage

WHAT? The small blood vessels located just beneath your kewpie’s eye can rupture, resulting in a bright red or dark red patch in the whites of your child’s eyes.
CAUSES When too much pressure is applied on the infant during contractions or by your doctor. Also more likely to happen in forceps or vacuum deliveries.
RECOVERY The redness usually subsides in the hours following birth, although it may also get worse before tapering off the day after delivery.

5. Erb’s Palsy

WHAT? Also known as brachial plexus palsy, Erb’s Palsy results in the paralysis or weakness in one arm caused by an injury to the nerves that control the muscles of the shoulder and upper limbs. The brachial plexus refers to the network of nerves responsible for transporting signals from the spine to the shoulder, arms and hand.
CAUSES A build-up of pressure on the baby’s raised arms during a breech delivery — where baby is delivered feet first. Your infant’s head and neck could have been pulled toward the side as his shoulders passed through the birth canal.
RECOVERY In mild cases, gentle arm massage and physiotherapy exercises will be recommended. But in severe cases, a specialist’s help, sometimes even surgery, will be needed.

Photos: iStock

Like us on Facebook and check SmartParents regularly for the latest reads!

Elsewhere on SmartParents.sg…

6 important truths about VBACs

9 frightening birthing injuries new mums face

7 ways to heal your vaginal tears