More Warnings: Birth Defects Caused By Lack Of Oxygen To The Brain – You’ve probably heard the term “birth defects” before. It might be related to a child being born with a deformity, or problems in learning and development beyond the typical newborn jitters.
The term is used to describe any condition that results from a defect in development, anything from congenital heart disease to developmental delays.
It’s easy to think of birth defects as something that only affects newborns, but birth defects can occur at any age. Some birth defects may never be noticed until later in life. This article is going to look at some common causes of birth defects including congenital heart defects, cerebral palsy, and even epilepsy.
Birth Defects Caused By Lack Of Oxygen To The Brain
Oxygen deprivation at birth is linked to a number of conditions that include cerebral palsy, and epilepsy which could lead to a baby deformity. These babies can suffer from cognitive problems, intellectual deficiencies and developmental delays as they grow older.
This can not really be compared to babies who do not suffer from such oxygen deprivation. To private such from happening to your child, you need to know the cause so you can take precautions as your child grows. Here are some causes of birth defects:
Congenital means present at birth, describing conditions that may be present from conception.
And while every pregnancy is different, some conditions are present in every baby — or nearly every baby — regardless of their parents’ genetics or lifestyle. These conditions include:
- Rhesus (Rh) Blood Type: This is the most common blood type, and it’s present in nearly all babies. However, if the Rh factor is absent in the baby’s DNA, the baby could suffer from sickle cell anaemia. This can cause repeated infections and strokes, but can also be successfully treated with an Rh shot during infancy.
- Down Syndrome: This birth defect caused by an extra chromosome occurs in one out of every 800 births. It often results in several health issues including heart defects, skeletal problems and mental disabilities.
Not all babies with Down Syndrome are born with it though. Some women with the Rh factor who are carriers of the Rh-negative gene can pass it on to their unborn baby and cause Down Syndrome.
- Hydrocephalus: This occurs when too much fluid builds up on the brain tissue inside the skull (or ventricles). This can result in serious developmental delays and learning disabilities.
Cerebral palsy is a condition that causes muscle coordination issues resulting in difficulty walking, climbing stairs, or using fine motor skills like handwriting. It often appears during infancy or early childhood, but can also develop later in life. Some causes include:
- Alcoholism: One of the most common causes of cerebral palsy is alcoholism and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Fetal alcohol syndrome can cause many conditions, including birth defects and developmental delays. Alcoholism isn’t always the cause of cerebral palsy though; sometimes genes can cause it as well.
- Maternal Diabetes: Maternal diabetes can cause damage to the brain and muscles due to glucose toxicity. While maternal diabetes is rarely seen in women who don’t drink alcohol, it is generally more likely in women who do drink alcohol regularly.
- Infections: Infections during pregnancy can cause brain damage due to swelling and damage to nerve cells. Meningitis, encephalitis, and bacterial meningitis can all result in cerebral palsy.
Microcephaly is a condition that results in small head sizes, sometimes accompanied by other issues such as seizures or developmental delays. Furthermore, Microcephaly can result from many causes including chromosomal abnormalities and infections (like meningitis or encephalitis).
- Chromosomal Abnormalities: About one out of every 2,000 births results in a child with an abnormality on one of their chromosomes. Common abnormalities include Down Syndrome and Turner Syndrome.
There are also rare chromosome abnormalities such as William Syndrome and Trisomy 18 (18p) which can result in microcephaly and other issues as well.
- Infections: While infections aren’t normally related to microcephaly, at least one case has been reported where there was a correlation between microcephaly and herpes infections.
- Haemorrhage: Hemorrhage during pregnancy can result in microcephaly as well. Some haemophiliacs are at a higher risk of miscarriage and premature labour; these people may also have higher rates of microcephaly due to their blood loss during pregnancy.
Spina bifida is a condition that occurs during pregnancy when the fetus’s spine does not completely close during development. The spine has three parts — bones, nerves, and muscles — that all need to be able to close completely for a normal delivery to take place. Spina bifida essentially means that one or more of these parts fails to close completely during development.
- Absence Of Nerves: If nerves aren’t present at all on the spinal cord wall, spina bifida can result in no symptoms at all. When nerves are present though, they will be damaged by bacteria that get into the body through cuts on the skin during delivery.
- This will result in nerve damage and pain in the legs, back or abdomen.
- Absence Of Bones: If bones aren’t completely formed at all on the spinal cord wall, spina bifida will result with no symptoms at all.
When bones are present though, they will be thin and misshapen rather than properly formed and closed off as they should be during development. These thin bones often result in spinal deformities such as kyphosis or scoliosis that can be very painful during daily living or worse yet, during childbirth (when they can crack open).
- Absence Of Muscles: If muscles aren’t present at all on the spinal cord wall, spina bifida will result with no symptoms at all.
When muscles are present though, they will not be able to close off completely like they should be during development and will often result in bowel issues because they are unable to close off completely as well as they should be during development (and cannot pass stool).
- Abnormalities In Nerve Endings: Spinal cord wall nerves often grow in abnormally long or short lengths resulting in problems with circulation or sensation (like numbness or tingling).
Nerves ending on an abnormally short length are often referred to as “floppy” nerves — which are painful if they are pinched during delivery or if they grow abnormally because they’re too thin or too long during pregnancy.
- Absence Of Closure: If the bones don’t completely close off during delivery (whether due to infection or other reasons) or if muscles don’t fully close off during development (for whatever reason), spina bifida will result with no symptoms at all.
Epilepsy is a condition that involves seizures that typically result from abnormal electrical activity within the brain/spinal cord causing uncontrolled activity within certain parts of the brain. There are many different types of epilepsy but some may include:
- Generalized Seizures: Generalized seizures occur when large regions of the brain become unresponsive for some time (typically about five seconds). These seizures can cause loss of consciousness (hemianopsia), loss of muscle control (ataxia), loss of speech (aphasia), movement (psychomotor) and/or loss of consciousness (secondary generalization).
- Focal Seizures: Focal seizures happen when something triggers an abnormal electrical activity within a small part of the brain causing uncontrolled activity within a smaller region of the brain (typically less than five seconds).
Like generalized seizures, focal seizures can cause loss of consciousness, muscle control problems (ataxia), movement (psychomotor) and/or loss of consciousness (secondary generalization).
- Status Epilepticus: Status epilepticus happens when an abnormal electrical activity within the brain/spinal cord causes uncontrolled activity within the brain over some time (typically more than five minutes).
Status epilepticus can cause loss of consciousness (hemianopsia), loss of muscle control (ataxia), loss of speech (aphasia), movement (psychomotor) and/or loss of consciousness (secondary generalization).
Status epilepticus may be caused by a seizure itself (focal seizures), an abnormal electrical disturbance within the brain/spinal cord that continues despite treatment with medicines (generalized seizures) or a combination of both factors.
- Grand Mal Seizures: Grand mal seizures are more dangerous than other types because they often involve electrical storms within the brain that can cause damage.
How can Oxygen Starvation at Birth be Treated?
If your baby is said to have suffered a period of oxygen deprivation, then a quick response is critical in minimising the effect. This is very important so it may have no effect on the child’s mental and physical development.
However, one of the leading treatments for cases like asphyxia is “therapeutic hypothermia. This treatment helps in cooling the baby’s brain to around 32 degrees for 72 hours following the birth. It helps slow down the chemical reaction in the brain. Giving the brain a better chance of healing.
Notwithstanding, the best and most effective treatment is “prevention”. This can simply be achieved through care during the antenatal period, labour and delivery. You should ensure that the medical professional involved in your child’s delivery, should have the expertise and experience to recognise signs of oxygen starvation. And quick actions should be taken in response to it.
What are the Symptoms of Being Starved of Oxygen at Birth?
Some symptoms of oxygen deprivation are easier to identify in some situations the others. However, it depends on the grade of the brain injury suffered. Below are listed symptoms of being starved of oxygen:
The First Grade is:
Mild oxygen deprivation at birth can make it difficult to determine whether any brain damage has been inflicted on an infant. Hence, the baby may be more irritable than in typical cases, have difficulty sleeping or feeding, or demonstrate hyper-alertness.
Moderate HIE – There would be signs of brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. Some of these signs are:
- Lack of movement or energy
- Reduced muscle tone and paleness
- Decreased reflexes
- Clinical seizures
Severe HIE – in this section the child hardly responds to anything. Some of the signs of severe HIE include:
- Minimal response to stimulation
- Reduced muscle tone and paleness
- Unable to breathe independently
- Low heartbeat
- Clinical seizures
How Long Can a Baby go without Oxygen Before Brain Damage Occurs?
The impact of oxygen deprivation varies from baby to baby. However, it is estimated that after approximately 10 minutes of no oxygen brain damage will start to occur. This can simply lead to the death of the baby after completely starved of oxygen for 25 minutes.
However, if the interruption to the baby’s oxygen supply is not complete, the baby will be able to stand for long periods of time before brain injury and then death occurs.
Birth defects caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain can be caused by numerous conditions, such as cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, spina bifida, and microcephaly. It is essential for parents to be aware of these risks and to seek medical help if their child experiences any problems during or after birth.
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