Increased Risk of Haemorrhage in Newborns

"Small bleeds in and around the brain are very common in infants who are born vaginally," said John H. Gilmore, M.D., professor of psychiatry and Vice-Chair for Research and Scientific Affairs at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. "It seems that a normal vaginal birth can cause these small bleeds."

For the study, 88 asymptomatic infants, equally divided between male and female, underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) between the ages of one and five weeks. Sixty-five had been delivered vaginally and 23 had been delivered by caesarean section. MR images showed that 17 (26 percent) of the babies who had been delivered vaginally had intracranial haemorrhages (ICH), or small bleeds in and around the brain. Seven infants had two or more types of ICH.

Prior studies have shown a smaller incidence—approximately 10 percent—of intracranial haemorrhage associated with vaginal birth. While ICH was significantly associated with vaginal birth, it was not dependent on prolonged duration of labour or on traumatic or assisted vaginal birth.

"In our study, neither the size of the baby or the baby's head, the length of the labour, nor the use of vacuum or forceps to assist the delivery caused the bleeds," Dr. Gilmore said. "The bleeds are probably caused by pressure on the skull during delivery."

Further studies must be done to measure the long-term effects of ICH in infants, but Dr. Gilmore noted that expectant parents should not rule out vaginal delivery because of these findings. "Obviously, the vast majority of us who were born vaginally and may have had these types of bleeds are doing just fine," he said. "Humans have been born vaginally for a very long time, and our brains probably evolved to handle vaginal birth without major difficulty."; Source: Radiological Society of North America