What Causes Seizures in Newborns?
A seizure is defined as abnormal electrical discharges in the brain, which cause symptoms such as convulsions, altered consciousness, and brain disturbances. Seizures in infants can indicate neonatal brain damage has occurred. Often, they are the first sign of a birth injury. Frequently, seizures develop in babies who were deprived of oxygen during the delivery process. Many seizure-causing injuries occur near or during delivery.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
HIE is the most common cause of neonatal seizures. This brain injury is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain during birth. This deprivation can occur from decreased oxygen in the baby’s blood (hypxemia/hypoxia) or decreased blood flow to the baby’s brain (ischemia).
There are a number of conditions that can cause HIE, including:
- Untreated maternal high blood pressure
- Umbilical cord injuries, such as the cord becoming wrapped around the baby’s neck (nuchal cord), umbilical cord prolapse, or cord compression.
- Uterine or placental complications, such as placenta previa, placental abruption, placental insufficiency, or ruptured uterus.
- Tachysystole (excessive uterine contractions)
- Complications due to the baby’s size or position
- Brain trauma or hemorrhages in the baby’s brain
- Improper use of delivery instruments, such as a vacuum extractor
- Delayed delivery
- Delayed emergency C-Section
- Prolonged second stage of labor
- Kernicterus, a difficulty getting rid of the red blood cell byproduct, bilirubin.
These conditions all can put the baby at risk, though many can be diagnosed early and treated. Careful monitoring of the mother and infant for distress during the delivery process can reduce the chances of many of these injuries.