When the brain does not receive enough blood, this is known as brain ischemia, an extremely dangerous condition for newborns as well as full grown adults. The brain needs a constant flow of blood in order to receive the oxygen it needs to metabolize glucose, and without oxygen, the brain will suffer from hypoxia resulting in cell death and brain damage. In an adult, brain ischemia causes stroke, brain damage, and death. In newborns, brain ischemia causes cerebral palsy, developmental disorders, and neurological disabilities.
Unfortunately there are a large number of brain ischemia causes, and a person may experience brain ischemia at any time. Though babies are especially vulnerable during delivery, they may also suffer from brain ischemia before and after delivery.
Maternal Hypotension and Hypertension
Before and during the delivery, brain ischemia may occur if the mother’s blood pressure is too low or too high. Irregular changes in blood pressure in the mother can affect the ability of the baby’s body to provide sufficient blood to the brain.
Intrapartum Hemorrhage and Fetal Stroke
Some fetuses will suffer strokes when arteries or veins in the brain burst and flood the brain with blood. Though it may seem strange that the flooding of blood can cause ischemia, hemorrhages in one area of the brain can actually affect the amount of blood that travels to other areas of the brain, resulting in localized brain ischemia.
Brain Ischemia Causes Related to the Placenta
The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to the brain and is also the area where these nutrients are exchanged by the fetus’s blood and the mother’s blood. If there is an abnormality in the placenta, this can disrupt the fetus’s ability to receive oxygen or supply blood to the brain. Placental abruption is caused when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before the baby is born. If this happens, it can cause the mother and the fetus to suffer from significant bleeding which may result in lack of blood flow to the brain.
Congenital Brain Ischemia Causes
Some cases of brain ischemia are caused by congenital defects. If the baby’s heart and circulatory system do not develop correctly or develop too slowly, this may prevent the brain from receiving the blood and oxygen it requires to develop. Depending on the length of this ischemia and when it occurs it can result in additional congenital defects that are neurological or cognitive in nature.
Brain Ischemia Causes Related to Delivery
There are many different ways that the delivery of a baby can cause brain ischemia. If the brain ischemia and asphyxiation are noticed quickly and mitigated, then the baby may not suffer any permanent damage. However, long durations of brain ischemia during delivery can result in permanent developmental disorders and even death of the newborn.
Prolapsed umbilical cords and other umbilical cord complications can restrict blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body. If the baby is improperly positioned or if there is significant cephalopelvic disproportion, there may be substantial compression of the baby’s head and brain during delivery which will also affect blood flow and oxygenation in the brain.
Delivery-related brain ischemia can also be caused by negligence and malpractice by the medical staff. If the doctor is not careful with the baby or monitoring for signs of asphyxia and ischemia, he may fail to prevent lasting brain damage or death. Use of tools such as forceps or vacuum suction to assist in delivery may place too much stress on the baby’s head or body, and this can also result in asphyxiation or brain ischemia.