How to Identify Seizures in Babies

How to Identify Seizures in BabiesChildbirth is life-changing and amazing for families, but it does have its own risks. From dying from complications of childbirth to potentially having an umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, there are several scenarios where the mother can suffer life-threatening complications or – maybe even worse – the baby can suffer birth injuries.

A birth injury occurs when an act of medical negligence during pregnancy, labor, or delivery causes harm to the baby. In some cases, there are factors beyond the control of the doctors, like the size of the baby, whether the baby is head-first in the canal, or whether the baby is born prematurely, that can contribute to lasting harm is there is no plan in place to address them. If an OBGYN or other medical professional breaches his or her duty of care, that negligence can trigger severe health conditions for the baby that can be life-threatening. One of the conditions that a birth injury can cause is a seizure.

What kinds of injuries cause seizures in newborns?

Per Medical News Today, “baby seizures happen when an abnormal extra burst of electrical activity occurs between neurons, or brain cells, in a baby’s brain.” While some seizures only last a few minutes and occur once, a baby that experiences frequent seizures must receive treatment to prevent potential brain damage. There are a few that will induce seizures for babies, including:

  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Brain trauma
  • Brain bleeds
  • Brain tumors
  • Undiagnosed infections (in mother or child)
  • Untreated high fevers

Preeclampsia has been linked to epilepsy in babies, so poor maternal care can also cause permanent harm to a child.

Is my baby having a seizure or not?

For parents, it is difficult to determine whether a baby is displaying signs of a seizure or whether a baby is testing its reflexes. Medical News Today identifies two types of reflexes that share the same characteristics of seizure symptoms: the Moro reflex and the tonic neck reflex.

The Moro reflex in babies

The Moro reflex is a regular, healthy part of a baby’s development. When a baby hears a loud sound or senses a sudden movement, he or she is exercising their Moro reflex by throwing their head back and stiffening and extending their arms. Babies usually outgrow this reflex by three to six months, so parents should not panic when they notice their baby demonstrating this behavior.

The tonic neck reflex in newborns

The tonic neck reflex is a reflex that the baby demonstrates by looking to the side with one arm extended while their other arm is bent. Babies first develop this reflex while in the womb. With this reflex, movements such as eye-rolling and leg pedaling are normal behavior, especially for newborns. This reflex helps the baby coordinate their eyes and control fine movement. This reflex is demonstrated by babies up to nine months old.

How to detect a seizure in your baby

Because of the subtle symptoms of seizures, it is difficult for parents to detect when a baby is having a seizure. Some of the symptoms usually consist of regular, normal movements such as leg cycling or uncontrollable eye movements. Because of this, it is hard for parents to notice when a seizure is happening. There are some common signs of seizures, however, that are easily detectable, such as uncontrollable jerking of the arms and legs and loss of consciousness. When it comes down to it, the type of symptoms the baby experiences is dependent upon the type of seizure the baby is having.

Subtle seizures in newborns and babies

Subtle seizures are the most common seizures during the newborn phase. Again, because the symptoms include normal, regular movements, these seizures may be hard to notice for parents. Some of the symptoms include eye-rolling, protruding tongue, leg cycling, uncontrollable eye movements, and long pauses between breaths.

Tonic seizures in babies

Tonic seizures are seizures where the baby’s muscles stiffen. During a tonic seizure, the baby may also bend and hold their arms and legs in awkward positions, keep their head to one side, or keep their eyes to one side, in addition to stiffening their muscles.

Is your baby suffering a clonic seizure?

Clonic seizures are seizures in which the baby is exhibiting repeated, uncontrollable, jerking muscle movements. When a baby is experiencing this type of seizure, certain parts of the baby’s body may be clenched or twitching, from its face or tongue to its arms and legs.

Tonic-clonic seizures and your baby

Tonic-clonic seizures are seizures where the baby experiences a combination of tonic seizures and clonic seizures. When the baby experiences this type of seizure, the symptoms begin with muscle stiffening, and then are followed by jerking.

What should I do if my baby is having a seizure?

When a baby is having a seizure, it is imperative that the baby be kept away from any hard objects so the potential for greater injury can be reduced. Once the baby is in a safe area, they must be rolled onto their side to prevent choking. It is also imperative that nothing is placed in the baby’s mouth, or that the parent refrain from stopping any mouth movements that the baby is performing, as that can harm the baby. If the baby is experiencing symptoms for longer than five minutes, turning blue, or having issues breathing, the parent must call 911 or take the baby to an emergency room.

If a medical professional’s negligence resulted in injury to your newborn, contact Merkel & Cocke, PA. Our committed Mississippi birth injury attorneys have more than 200 years of collective experience. From our home office in Jackson, we assist injured babies, mothers and families throughout Mississippi, including Tupelo, Clarksdale, Greenville, Oxford, and across the Gulf Coast region. We also handle cases in Tennessee and Arkansas. Call us today at 662-627-9641 or complete a contact form to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.