Brain injuries are a tragically common occurrence among premature newborns; however, scientists are finally beginning to understand the most common underlying cause of these injuries, according to NPR. Birth injuries are the leading cause of death in infants.
Scientists claim that periods of stress in the days and weeks after birth, during which the infant’s underdeveloped lungs cannot take in sufficient oxygen, often results in damage to the most common type of white matter in the brain, even with the aid of a breathing device. White matter, also known as myelin, acts as insulation around nerve fibers that carry messages in the brain and nervous system. Without enough of this insulation, messages often cannot get through.
After studying over 250 premature babies with a specially-designed MRI, scientists have been able to safely detect white matter damage very early-on. The question now, is what can be done to intervene during this critical stage of development. The white matter damage seen in this sort of brain injury is exactly what happens in conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, strokes, and traumatic brain injuries.
Full-term infants, while not as particularly susceptible to brain injuries as preemies, can be put at risk for birth trauma if the reporting doctor and medical team do not employ a certain level of care during the birthing and delivery process. Cerebral palsy and other birth injuries can develop if the doctor fails to recognize umbilical cord compression or neglects to perform a timely C-section when there are indications of potential risk to the fetus.