The younger, smaller and sicker a baby is at birth, the more likely he is to have a brain bleed, also called an intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). If you or someone you know has a baby with a brain bleed, it can be a very scary and upsetting experience.
Bleeding in the brain is most common in the smallest of babies born prematurely (weighing less than 3 1/3 pounds). A baby born before 32 weeks of pregnancy is at the highest risk of developing a brain bleed. The tiny blood vessels in a baby’s brain are very fragile and can be injured easily. The bleeds usually occur in the first few days of life.
How are brain bleeds diagnosed?
Bleeding generally occurs near the fluid-filled spaces (ventricles) in the center of the brain. An ultrasound examination can show whether a baby has a brain bleed and how severe it is. According to MedlinePlus.gov, “all babies born before 30 weeks should have an ultrasound of the head to screen for IVH. The test is done once between 7 and 14 days of age. Babies born between 30-34 weeks may also have ultrasound screening if they have symptoms of the problem.”
Are all brain bleeds the same?
Brain bleeds usually are given a number grade (1 to 4) according to their location and size. The right and left sides of the brain are graded separately. Most brain bleeds are mild (grades 1 and 2) and resolve themselves with few lasting problems. More severe bleeds (grade 3 and 4) can cause difficulties for your baby during hospitalization as well as possible problems in the future.
What happens after your baby leaves the hospital?
Every child is unique. How well your baby will do depends on several factors. Many babies will need close monitoring by a pediatric neurologist or other specialist (such as a developmental behavioral pediatrician) during infancy and early childhood. Some children may have seizures or problems with speech, movement or learning.
If your baby is delayed in meeting his developmental milestones, he may benefit from early intervention services (EI). EI services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy may help your child make strides. Read this series to learn how to access services in your state.
Where can parents find support?
Having a baby with a brain bleed can be overwhelming. The March of Dimes online community, Share Your Story, is a place where parents can find comfort and support from other parents who have (or had) a baby in the NICU with a brain bleed. Just log on and post a comment and you will be welcomed.
You can also leave a comment here on our blog, or send a question to AskUs@marchofdimes.org where a health education specialist is ready to assist you.