Preterm birth can lead to many different health complications. Brain bleed, also called an intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), is one type of serious problem that can happen in babies who are born too early, smaller and sicker. 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 preterm babies who weigh less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces). A baby born before 32 weeks of pregnancy is at the highest risk of developing a brain bleed. This is because the tiny blood vessels in a baby’s brain are very fragile and can be injured easily. The bleeds usually happen in the first few days of life.
How are brain bleeds diagnosed?
In IVH, bleeding occurs near the fluid-filled spaces (ventricles) in the center of the brain. An ultrasound test can show if a baby has a brain bleed and how severe it is. All babies born before 30 weeks should have an ultrasound of the head to screen for IVH, according to MedlinePlus.gov. The test is typically done between 7 and 14 days of age. Babies born between 30 weeks and 34 weeks also may be screened if they have symptoms of IVH.
Are all brain bleeds the same?
Brain bleeds usually are given a number grade (1 to 4) based on where in the brain it's happening in and how big the brain bleed is. 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 (grades 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 with IVH will need to be seen by a pediatric neurologist or another 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 their developmental milestones, they may benefit from early intervention services. Early intervention services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy may help your child catch up.
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 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.