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Birth Injury

French study reveals infant brain compression during birth is understated

July 01, 2019

Scientists understand that an infant’s soft, flexible skull shifts during childbirth, but recently French researchers were surprised by exactly how much a newborn baby’s head and brain are compressed as the child passes through the birth canal during the delivery.

“When we showed the fetal head changing shape, we discovered that we had underestimated a lot of the brain compression during birth,” French obstetrician, gynecologist, and study author Olivier Ami told NBC News.

As Live Science reports, the shape of a baby’s head can change because the bones in an infant’s skull have not yet fused together. The soft spots on the top of the newborn’s head allow for the head to be squeezed as the baby passes through the birth canal and also provide space for the infant’s brain to grow as it matures before the skull eventually hardens.

The French study used 3-D MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of seven pregnant women during various stages of their pregnancies, including a pre-labor scan between weeks 36-39, a scan when they were undergoing labor, and a scan when their cervixes became fully dilated.

The seven pregnant women in the study:

  • Were ages 23-34
  • Had an effective epidural during labor
  • Were giving birth for the first, second, or third time
  • Had no known factors that could impair vaginal childbirth
  • Had an MRI no more than 10 minutes before expulsive efforts
  • Were imaged in the dorsal decubitus position

Of the seven newborns in the study, the skulls of five infants returned back to the shape they were before labor and showed no noticeable signs of deformation. Changes were apparent in the skulls of two of the infants, and two of the three newborns with the most noticeable fetal head molding needed to be delivered via C-section. With all seven babies, researches saw fetal head molding occur, meaning the skull bones that didn’t overlap pre-labor were visibly overlapped during labor, noticeably warping the head and brain of the newborns.

As reported by, fetal head molding might explain why some infants are born with brain hemorrhages, a type of birth injury that can result in cerebral palsy.

How a Chicago birth injury lawyer can help

The French study showed just how much stress a newborn baby’s brain can come under during childbirth, and in the future, realistic simulations may be able to predict ─ and hopefully prevent ─ any biomechanical complications during delivery.

It’s been proven that the birthing process can be traumatic to newborns, and studies like the one conducted recently in France are positive steps toward understanding why and how certain birth injuries occur.

Even with that understanding, doctors still have a duty to properly examine all a pregnant woman’s risk factors to help prevent a birth injury or brain damage to a newborn during delivery. Unfortunately, the negligent actions of some doctors ─ either before, during or immediately after childbirth ─ result serious, life-altering birth injuries.

If your child suffered a birth injury at the hand of a negligent medical provider, you may be eligible for compensation. The experienced Chicago birth injury attorneys from Jeffrey M. Goldberg Law Offices can help. Contact a lawyer from our Chicago firm today for a free consultation. We serve clients in Chicago, Milwaukee, and throughout Illinois.

About The Author

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Attorney Jeffrey M. Goldberg has spent his entire professional career handling cases involving birth injury, medical malpractice, product liability and related accidents.