Spinal Cord Damage Causes

spineOf all of the different types of birth injuries spinal cord injuries may be the most dangerous. Spinal cord damage causes permanent nerve damage, pain, paralysis, and possibly death. Spinal cord damage is very rare during a delivery, but it is possible in certain circumstances. There are a number of different factors and conditions that may cause spinal cord damage or increase the risk of spinal injury. It is the responsibility of the doctor and medical staff to guard against any type of damage to the baby’s spinal cord during the delivery.

Physical Trauma Spinal Cord Damage Causes

The easiest to understand and prevent of spinal cord causes is physical trauma and traumatic injury. The delivery of a baby puts enormous pressure on a baby’s body, but typically this pressure is not on the spinal cord. Most pressure is applied laterally to the baby’s skull, and because the baby’s skull is still soft and not fully formed, it is usually able to mold to the size of the birth canal and suffer no serious injuries. In order to cause the physical trauma necessary to damage the spinal cord, it typically requires a doctor or other member of the medical staff to perform malpractice or serious misconduct. For example, forceps and vacuum extraction both put large amounts of pressure on a baby’s body. If these tools are not used correctly or if the baby’s position in the birth canal is irregular, these types of tools can end up causing serious damage to the baby, and this is one of the most preventable spinal cord damage causes. As the baby moves through the birth canal, spinal cord injuries may be caused by hyperextension, improper rotation of the head, or traction and compression.

Breech Delivery and Malposition

How the baby is positioned in the uterus and its presentation in the birth canal is extremely important. For example, a breech delivery, in which a baby exits feet first or buttocks first, is several times more dangerous than a normal delivery. Pressure is put on parts of the body that are not designed to handle that pressure, and it is more difficult to prevent injuries, including spinal cord injuries. As the baby moves through the birth canal, it may begin to turn or rotate. This can put undue pressure on the back, neck, or head and cause serious spinal cord damage. It is the responsibility of the medical staff to be fully aware of the baby’s position and presentation in the womb. If the baby is positioned in a way that makes delivery too dangerous, the doctor should consider performing an emergency C-section.

Undiagnosed Spina Bifida

One of the most significant spinal cord damage causes is the misdiagnosis or lack of awareness of spina bifida. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that affects the spinal column and creates small gaps or spaces in between the vertebrae. In minor cases of spina bifida, these spaces are very small and are not dangerous; however, severe cases of spina bifida have much larger gaps and leave parts of the spinal cord exposed to injury and infection. If a fetus has a severe form of spina bifida, a traditional delivery may be too dangerous. In this situation, the medical staff can perform a C-section to remove the baby.

Congenital Defects and Malformations

Sometimes a baby’s spinal cord did not develop correctly and this resulted in spinal cord damage before the baby was even born. Genetic spinal cord damage causes the same types of injuries and health problems as other spinal cord damage, so it can sometimes be difficult for a parent to tell if the damage occurred before or during the birth.
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