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Is the Risk of Birth Injury Changed By the Size of a Newborn?

Medical malpractice that causes a newborn to suffer a birth injury, like cerebral palsy or brachial plexus injuries, seems often related to manual hardship while trying to deliver the baby. An unprepared or under-experienced doctor may pull or twist the newborn dangerously to complete the delivery. A new study conducted by a German research team may have determined that babies with larger-than-average head circumferences are at higher risk of such birth injuries, especially those that cause brain damage.

Obstetrics and Gynecology International published the German study — “White Matter Damage in 4,725 Term-Born Infants is Determined by Head Circumference at Birth: The Missing Link” — that claims to have found a concrete connection between head size and incidence of birth injuries. In particular, the researchers focused on white matter brain damage suffered at birth, which is commonly caused by excess skull pressure during delivery. This known connection led the researchers to ask whether the size of the child’s head played a significant role as a risk factor.

Nearly 5,000 infants born in typical, non-premature births were examined for the study. Weight, height, and head circumference of the toddlers were measured and compared to the rate of white matter damage. A total of 61 infants were found to have suffered such brain damage during birth.

Interestingly, children with slightly larger heads than the median were at the same risk of suffering brain damage during birth as children with much smaller heads. Newborns who fit into these percentiles were roughly 7 or 8 times more likely to suffer a brain injury at birth than other infants. When a child’s head was much larger than usual, the risk of white matter damage spiked up to at least 10 times more likely. Boys were also three times more likely to experience white matter damage than girls, which coincides with the data and hypothesis, as boys are more likely to be larger at birth.

What Does the Data Mean for Birth Injury Cases?

The findings of this study are significant. Medical providers have ample tools to measure the circumference of an unborn child’s head. If they notice it is larger or smaller than usual, then they should know to use intense care during birth, or perhaps consider using a C-section to assist with delivery. Failing to use the tools available and take precautions makes it highly likely that a doctor will harm the child, causing a permanent birth injury.

If your child is born with brain damage and you suspect a medical provider’s mistake was the cause, or worsened the situation, then you should discover your right to seek compensation and damages. Habbas & Associates are here to help you navigate this troubling time with confidence. Contact our San Jose birth injury and personal injury attorneys today to request a free consultation to begin your case.

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