Bruises. The normal pressures exerted on the baby’s head during normal labour are such that some bruising will nearly always be present over the face or scalp of a baby. These marks rapidly disappear during the first 24 hours. A cephalhaematoma as well as the caput are bruises on the head as a result of normal labour. The size of the bruises may vary according to the difficulty and length of labour.
Bruising may also be caused by forceps or the vacuum extractor (ventouse). Bruises or marks made by the blades of the obstetric forceps disappear after 2 or 3 days and do not leave any permanent injury or damage.
Facial palsy is the name of a particular condition where the nerve supplying the lower half of one side of the baby’s face is temporarily paralysed. This nerve is particularly unprotected just beneath the ear, and during a forceps delivery it may be bruised or damaged so that one side of the baby’s face fails to move properly shortly afterwards. The movement and tone in the face return to normal . spontaneously after a few days or a few weeks at most and the baby is not left with any permanent injury or deformity.
Fractures. The majority of babies’ bones are very soft but occasionally they may be particularly brittle so that fractures of bones in the legs, arms or a collar bone may occur at birth especially if delivery is difficult. Even so, these fractures do not often require any specific treatment and the bones heal spontaneously leaving no permanent effect. Fractures may occasionally happen in the skull bones if the labour has been very difficult but are now rare.
Intracranial haemorrhage is bleeding that occurs into the brain and is nearly always the result of a premature or difficult labour. The condition is serious but is becoming increasingly rare. Unfortunately haemorrhage into the brain is particularly liable to happen in premature babies and it is for this reason that many doctors prefer to deliver premature babies by forceps which protect the baby’s skull from any injury.
The eyes. Haemorrhage may occasionally be present in the white part of the new-born baby’s eye. The bruising is a result of pressure on the baby’s head as it passes through the pelvis and it always clears up spontaneously without any treatment or permanent defect.