Why Does My Newborn Baby Have Bruises?

When you take your newborn child home from the hospital, you may not even realize they’ve sustained bruises until several days afterwards. Birth trauma can naturally cause bruising in some newborn infants, so in many instances, minor scrapes and bruises will eventually heal on their own.

But while the majority of bruising cases are a natural result of passing through the birth canal, some bruises may be directly caused by a doctor’s mistake, and can indicate more serious underlying conditions. From forceps injuries to brachial plexus, many major birth injuries only become obvious once bruises start to surface.

Here’s how you can recognize the difference between natural bruises and those caused by a major birth injury:

Common Birth Injuries with Bruising Symptoms

When you first notice your baby’s bruises, take some time to gently examine the affected area for any other irregularities or abnormalities. Although this isn’t always the case, the presentation of additional symptoms can mean that a birth injury has taken place. If it’s just a few scattered bruises without other ongoing issues or symptoms, keep an eye on the bruises for a few days, and call a doctor if they don’t disappear on their own.

Below are a few of the most common birth injuries that can be accompanied by bruising:

  • Fractured bones: As with adult fractures, infant bone fractures can cause bruising patterns over the bone. If your infant cries or shows signs of pain when the area is accidentally touched, you may need to get an X-ray to confirm the extent of the fracture. While infant fractures typically heal quickly, a bone fracture can cause limited mobility if left untreated.
  • Brachial plexus or shoulder dystocia: The brachial plexus is a delicate group of nerves that connects our shoulders to our arms. If the doctor failed to position the baby’s shoulder correctly during delivery (particularly during a breech birth), the brachial plexus can become damaged, and the baby may lose the ability to move one or both arms. This is also called shoulder dystocia injury or Erb's Palsy.
  • Paralysis of the facial nerve: When an infant has sustained facial nerve damage, you may notice that one feature or side of their face does not move, particularly when crying. Paralysis is a common side effect of inappropriate forceps use, and although many cases heal with time, a torn nerve can require surgery to correct.
  • Swelling of the scalp’s soft tissues: Known to doctors by the Latin name Caput succedaneum, some babies may sustain swelling injuries to their delicate scalp tissue when there’s no amniotic fluid to serve as a buffer. This most commonly occurs in difficult labors, particularly when a vacuum extraction device has been used. If your baby has head swelling in addition to bruising, contact a doctor immediately.
  • Cephalohematoma: A cephalohematoma occurs when blood has accumulated just over your baby’s skull, causing abnormal lumps in addition to any bruising. While most cephalohematomas are re-absorbed into the blood stream over a period of months, some may require medical attention to prevent jaundice.

Do you recognize any of these symptoms in addition to your baby’s bruising? The doctor who delivered your baby could be liable for his or her injuries. Contact the skilled medical malpractice team at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP for a free consultation today.

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