The baby, as you would appreciate, is subjected to quite a few stresses and strains, which could well be hazardous during the birth process. The risk of hazards multiplies in the presence of congenital defects, low birthweight, difficult deliveries and complicated pregnancy which may affect the foetus in some form or the other. Yet, it is a wonder that the vast majority of the babies are born normally.
In the first place, during labour, as and when there is a labour pain, which implies that the womb is contracting, the baby is deprived of its blood supply and thus his oxygen. His ability to bear this oxygen deprivation temporarily is unique. As soon as the relaxation phase begins he breathes again. Once in a while, it may so happen that oxygen deprivation becomes far too much and lasts far too long. In such a situation, he may suffer from a brain damage. It is possible that the child with “minimal brain dysfunction” who is slow to learn, dull and clumsy, has had a difficult or delayed birth leading to oxygen deprivation and somewhat damaged brain.
Secondly, the relatively large head of the baby may undergo far too much of squeezing and moulding during its passage through the narrow birth canal. Excessive stress and pressure on the soft tissue of the brain and its covering membranes may cause tearing, laceration and bleeding into the brain. The result will be a permanent brain damage.
Also during passage through the very narrow birth canal, the shoulders – the next largest part of the baby – squeezed during contraction of the womb may cause fractures of the bones in and around the shoulder joint.
Not all deliveries are conducted a natural way. At times it becomes necessary to use instruments called forceps or vacuum extractor to assist in the delivery while some babies get born through a surgical opening made in the abdominal wall and the womb, called the caesarean section. Such intervention is usually required when the lie of the baby is not normal, the birth passage is far too narrow, the contractions of the womb are inadequate or some such thing. Though instruments are always applied very carefully, a little risk of damage to head or a fracture is always there.
Sometime it happens that a baby with a tendency to bleed may show blood oozing from the umbilical stump or from elsewhere. He may bleed spontaneously from the gut. Bleeding from the gut may present as blood in the motion or the vomit. A prompt management is indicated. Last but not the least, the baby may not be able to breathe and cry at all or for a considerable time even after birth. This is bound to either cause a failure on the part of various physiological processes to begin or to damage some of these a great lot.