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Birth Injury

What is a birth injury?

Occasionally during the birth process, the baby may suffer a physical injury that is simply the result of being born. This is sometimes called birth trauma or birth injury.

What causes birth injury?

Birth injuries are more common when:

  • The baby is large

  • The baby is not head-first in the birth canal

  • The baby is born prematurely or too early

  • The size or shape of the mother's pelvis or birth canal makes it difficult for a normal vaginal birth

  • Labor is difficult or very long. An example of this is when contractions aren't strong enough to move the baby through the birth canal.

  • The mother is very overweight

  • There is a cesarean delivery

  • Devices, like vacuum or forceps, are used to deliver the baby

What are some of the more common birth injuries?

The following are common birth injuries:

  • Swelling or bruising of the head

  • Bleeding underneath one of the cranial bones.

  • Breakage of small blood vessels in the eyes of a baby

  • Facial nerve injury caused by pressure on the baby's face

  • Injury to the group of nerves that supplies the arms and hands 

  • Fracture of the clavicle or collarbone

Medical Reviewers:

  • Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
  • Lee, Kimberly G., MD, MSc, IBCLC