Common Conditions in Newborns

Common Conditions in Newborns | Dr. Ali Ghahary

During the first few weeks after giving birth, you may notice certain physical conditions in your newborn – many of which are common. Minor injuries, such as cuts and bruises, for example, are something that can occur as a result of childbirth, though they will usually heal within a short timeframe. There are also certain injuries that can occur that are considered to be more severe and can persist long-term or be permanent.

The most common reason why a newborn might develop an injury during birth is if the mother is in labour for a long period of time, or if the labour is difficult. One example of a common birth injury is muscle weakness, which is caused as a result of pressure during labour. This is an injury that will typically get better after a few weeks as long as you ensure you are handling your baby as carefully as possible. Injuries can also occur if a baby is larger than usual. For example, doctors will typically recommend that women get a C-section if their baby is thought to be more than 11 pounds. Newborns are also at risk of bone fractures during labour, which can be caused by excessive twisting or pulling of the baby during delivery. Babies that are born with bone diseases are also at an increased risk of suffering bone fractures during delivery. Some injuries also depend upon the position of the fetus. As you get ready to give birth, the fetus moves into a position ready for deliver. The correct position that a fetus should be in is facing rearward with a headfirst presentation, neck flexed, and face and body angled to one side. If the fetus is in an abnormal presentation, this can lead in a more difficult labour as well as potential injuries to the newborn.

Upon birth, it’s not uncommon for a newborn to have some respiratory distress and take a few hours to form a normal breathing pattern. However, if your newborn exhibits rapid breathing (more than 60 breaths in 1 minute), has retractions during each breath (the ribs will stick out when this occurs), makes grunting noises while breathing, or has persistent blue colouring if their skin, it would be wise to take them to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

It’s also not uncommon for babies to develop jaundice, which is characterized as yellowing of the skin. Jaundice will typically first appear on the face, followed be the chest, abdomen, arms and legs. The whites of the eyes may also appear yellow in colour. This condition is caused when the chemical known as bilirubin builds up in the blood, and is particularly common in newborns due to their liver not immediately or efficiently being able to do its job of removing this chemical from the bloodstream. While jaundice is fairly easy to treat in newborns, it can lead to potential risks and complications if left untreated, such as damage to the nervous system – or, in some cases, brain damage. So, if you do notice that your newborn happens to have a yellowish tinge to their skin, this should always be addressed with your family physician or pediatrician.

Newborns tend to sleep a lot – at least 15 hours per day. However, for the first few weeks of life they tend to sleep for only 2 to 4 hours at a time. If your newborn is rarely alert, seems overtired, or is uninterested in feedings, then you should contact your family physician or pediatrician right away as excessive lethargy could be a sign that something is seriously wrong.

Following a large feeding, a newborn’s belly may stick out. In-between feedings, however, your newborn’s belly should feel soft. If it feels swollen or hard, or if your newborn has not had a bowel movement in more than two days, then this could be due to gas or constipation. However, if this persists or if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms (such as vomiting), contact your pediatrician.

For a more in-depth list of other common conditions that can occur in newborns, click here.