Stroke commonly happens to older people. But did you know that it can happen to newborns too? It is called as pediatric stroke. In fact, both the elderly and the newborns have a similar risk of getting a stroke. It is even a common occurrence within 28 days of the baby being born. What’s unfortunate is that stroke among newborns is still not given enough attention and treatment.
Stats of Stroke in Newborns
Newborns have a higher risk of suffering from a stroke than infants and older children. One in 6000 newborn babies suffers from sinovenous thrombosis; one in 4000 suffers from a hemorrhagic stroke; and one in 4000 suffers from an arterial ischemic stroke.
Causes of Pediatric Stroke
In the womb, proteins reach the fetus from the placenta, which reduce bleeding. However, the same proteins in the placenta also increase the fetus’ risk of stroke and clotting. Clots may start in the placenta and reach the blood circulation of the fetus, which might take them to the brain, causing a stroke.
A stroke may also occur during labor and delivery. Childbirth is not only stressful for the mom but also for the baby, particularly the veins and arteries in their brain, which might cause clots to form and start a stroke.
It doesn’t help that newborns have a double the red blood cells found in adults, which increases the risk of blood clot. If they get dehydrated a few days after they’re born, this can be another cause of clotting and stroke.
Symptoms of Pediatric Stroke
What makes stroke in newborns doubly scary is that they don’t show outward signs of stroke. That’s why it usually goes untreated until they are old enough to start showing symptoms.
In the case of newborns that do show signs of stroke, they usually experience a seizure. However, the medical staff or anyone watching should be keen observers to notice the following signs of seizure:
- Stiffening muscle groups
- Repetitive sucking, eye movements, or chewing, among other facial movements
- Sudden jerks of the leg, arm, or the entire body
- Rhythmic jerking movements of the tongue, face, legs, arms or other parts of the body
One-sided weakness is often hard to spot in newborns, although it might get easier to do so as the baby grows older. Handedness, or the preference in the use of one hand over the other in reaching out to objects, in six-week to six-month old babies is also a common sign of stroke in babies that is often misunderstood by the adults. It is a developmental stage that should occur only among one-year old babies or older.
Stroke in newborns usually worsen when the baby has a birth defect, especially a hole in the heart. The risk is also higher in newborns born to a family with a history of clotting. Infections such as meningitis or sepsis also put babies at a higher risk of getting a stroke.
Even if the fetus was diagnosed with a stroke in the womb, their condition can only be addressed once they’re born. After delivery, the effects of stroke, though, sadly cannot be reversed. To prevent the clotting from getting worse, the babies might be administered an anticoagulant. This medication is especially helpful in the case of an ischemic stroke or sinovenous thrombosis, provided there is no bleeding in the brain.
However, an anticoagulant should not be used in babies with a hemorrhagic stroke, because the condition usually comes with bleeding in the brain.
It is a good thing that the newborn brain can recover from a stroke better than an adult brain. Since its connections are still forming, it is easier for the babies to move some functions of the stroke-affected part of the brain to the other parts.
However, there may also be complications from the pediatric stroke in babies. These include cerebral palsy, language problems, epilepsy, behavioral problems, seizure disorders, and headache disorders.
Now that you know even newborns suffer from stroke too, you might be more watchful of your baby’s movements. It doesn’t hurt to be extra observant.