What Causes Neonatal Seizures in Babies?

Disclaimer: Please know that our website is owned by a medical malpractice law firm that focuses exclusively on birth injury cases. We try to provide useful medical information to our readers, but we cannot provide treatments or medical advice. If you think your child may be having a seizure, please call 911/your country’s emergency number or your doctor.

Newborn seizures are relatively rare, happening in only about 3 per 1,000 live births. However, seizures are much more common in preterm infants, occuring in about 57–132 per 1000 live births. A majority of neonatal seizures (80%) will happen in the first week of an infant’s life.  

Seizures are triggered by sudden, abnormal electrical discharges. Neonatal seizures are most commonly caused by birth injuries. A birth injury is any sort of harm to a baby that occurs during or near the time of birth. Birth injuries can often be prevented, and a medical professional’s failure to prevent a birth injury may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.  

Tell us your story.

Dealing with a birth injury diagnosis can be difficult, but our attorneys can help. The ABC Law Centers: Birth Injury Lawyers team focuses exclusively on birth injury and are dedicated to earning justice for families like yours.

Call us for a free consultation

5 Common Causes of Neonatal Seizures

1. The most common cause of neonatal seizures is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). 

HIE is a brain injury that is caused by a lack of oxygenated blood flow to the baby’s brain. It often occurs during or close to the time of labor and delivery. HIE can also cause permanent brain damage and lifelong conditions such as cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and learning disabilities .

2. Ischemic stroke is the second most common cause of neonatal seizure.

Ischemic strokes are caused by a clot in a blood vessel. Perinatal strokes, or strokes that occur around the time of birth, are often associated with HIE, birth trauma, and/or other birth injuries.

3. The third most prevalent cause of neonatal seizure is intracranial hemorrhages, or bleeding in the brain.

Brain bleeds put pressure on the nerve cells in a baby’s brain and can cause damage to those cells. Severe damage can lead to permanent brain injury. Seizures are a potential sign of that damage. Both HIE and traumatic birth injuries (such as when there is excessive force or pressure applied to a baby’s head during labor and delivery) can cause brain bleeds. 

4. Infections such as sepsis and meningitis can also cause neonatal seizures.

Maternal infections can be transmitted to the baby at birth, which  is why it is especially important for doctors to do all they can to treat maternal infections and minimize the risk of transmission. If a baby has suspected seizures, they should be promptly evaluated for infection.  

5. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is another cause of neonatal seizures.

This condition is common in babies born to mothers who have diabetes, babies who have hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, and/or are small for gestational age (among other risk factors). Thankfully, neonatal hypoglycemia is easy to diagnose and treat. However, if it is left untreated, it can cause permanent brain damage. Doctors should measure glucose levels in any infants with suspected seizures.

Can neonatal seizures be caused by medical negligence?

Neonatal seizures are often caused by birth injuries and medical negligence. In order to prevent birth injuries, medical professionals should perform regular prenatal tests to ensure the health of the baby. If there is any fetal distress  or conditions (due to risk factors such as preeclampsia, diabetes, or umbilical cord issues) that could lead to insufficient oxygen-rich blood reaching the baby, medical staff should place the baby under close observation and deliver in time to avoid brain injury.  

During labor and delivery, the baby’s heart rate should be continuously monitored with a fetal heart rate monitor. If a baby begins to experience oxygen deprivation, this will be reflected in the fetal heart tracings as “nonreassuring tracings.” If nonreassuring tracings occur, medical professionals should intervene promptly. In many cases, intervention means delivery via emergency C-section. A delayed delivery can cause prolonged oxygen deprivation, resulting in HIE and seizures.

Should I contact an attorney?

Birth injury cases are complex, both medically and legally. In order to secure the best case outcome for your child, it’s critical to find an attorney and a law firm that focus specifically on birth injury cases. Attorneys at ABC Law Centers: Birth Injury Lawyers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.) have focused their entire careers on this area of law.

Contact us today to begin your free case review. We will answer your questions, help you understand where malpractice may have occurred in your child’s case, determine the negligent party, and inform you of your legal options. Moreover, you pay nothing throughout the entire legal process unless we win or favorably settle your case.


Related Reading

Ready to listen 24/7!

Did your baby have seizures at or around their time of birth? Our in-house nursing staff is here to listen and discuss the details of your case.

Call us today!