8 Common Birth Injuries in Newborns

Birth injuries are more common than new parents think. Occurring during or just after childbirth, discovering an injury can feel terrible. When caught early, some of these injuries may not require lifelong care. Others, however, may cause permanent damage to the child. Regardless of an infant’s birthing journey, it is important for a new parent to learn the signs and symptoms of the most common injuries newborns experience. The faster you catch an injury, the faster your baby can receive care and the faster you can understand your legal rights in a medical malpractice claim.

Forceps Marks and Bruising

Many child deliveries cause trauma to the baby’s head as it passes through the birth canal. As a result, some newborns may show signs of bruising, especially on the head or face. If a practitioner uses forceps to aid the delivery, new parents may observe marks on the baby’s face. Rest assured that these bruises and marks are temporary and often resolve within a few days or weeks.

Brachial Palsy

Brachial palsy is a nerve injury in the arms and hands. It can happen when the shoulder area has trouble passing through the birthing canal. Brachial palsy symptoms include partial paralysis in a baby’s arm. A parent may also witness swelling and bruising around the nerves. In many cases, movement returns within several months. However, if the nerve is torn, it may cause permanent damage. New parents may be referred to a physical therapist, who can help manipulate the baby’s arms to facilitate a normal range of motion while the nerves heal.


Cephalohematoma is a jarring but often harmless birth injury. This injury involves bleeding between the skull bone and the fibrous skin covering the area. Symptoms include a visibly raised lump on the baby’s head, which can be purple or red in color. However, within weeks or months, the body reabsorbs the blood, and the hematoma recedes. These child birth injury signs can be scary for new parents, but they do not present a significant threat to the baby’s health.

Bone Fractures

In some births, an infant’s clavicle (collarbone) may break as the baby travels through the birthing canal. This is especially common in breech deliveries when the baby is upside down in the parent’s womb. You can easily identify a fractured clavicle when observing limited mobility in one arm and a small but firm bone bump. Luckily, clavicle fractures heal quickly in newborns, often within just a few weeks.

Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum is the swelling in the soft tissue on a baby’s scalp. Like many birth injuries, it occurs as the baby travels through the birth canal. The most easily observed symptoms include bruising and swelling. These symptoms often resolve within a few days. Caput succedaneum may look like a serious injury, but it is often harmless.

Facial Paralysis

When forceps are used for delivery, or if a birthing process takes a long time, a baby may develop facial paralysis. This occurs when pressure placed on the baby’s face injures the facial nerve. The easiest way to identify this injury is to observe the baby crying. If part of the face, often one side, does not exhibit movement, there is likely an injury. Bruised nerves heal within a few weeks, but torn nerves may require surgery.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Like adults, babies can develop burst blood vessels in the eyes. Known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage, this injury presents as small bands or dots of red appear in the white part of the eye. This occurs when the infant experiences excess pressure during the birthing process. This extremely common injury often resolves within ten days.

Epidural Hematoma

This bleeding injury occurs when there is bleeding between the outer layer of brain tissue and the skull. In many cases, a skull fracture is the primary cause. When the hematoma becomes larger, it may put pressure on the brain and cause skull bones to bulge. If your newborn develops an epidural hematoma, they may experience seizures or apnea. When left untreated, this injury can cause lasting brain damage.


Birth injuries are common, but not all require additional care or long-term treatment. In many cases, birthing injuries resolve within several months. However, if you notice that your infant is experiencing mobility or cognitive challenges, alert your doctor right away. There may be a treatment available to mitigate harm.