What is a Neonatal Stroke?

Just like adults newborns and fetuses or babies can suffer from stroke. A stroke is a disruption in blood flow in the brain through one of its arteries. One of the most common areas of stroke is a middle cerebral artery stroke or MCA. There are two types of strokes. There are ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes often come from a blood clot or again a disruption in blood flow. A hemorrhagic stroke is when the vessel or artery in the brain bursts and therefore stops blood from flowing to vital areas of the brain and can cause injury in and of itself. Most babies affected by a neonatal stroke are suffering from ischemic strokes as opposed to hemorrhagic strokes.

Why Neonatal Strokes happen?

Determining the cause or the etiology of a neonatal stroke is often difficult however some of the most common causes of neonatal stroke occur during the labor and delivery process or during the intrapartum period either from in isolation or in combination:


  • Poor oxygenation to the fetus,
  • Placental clot that travels through the umbilical cord to the fetal circulation and to the baby’s brain or
  • Result from an underlying infection or an underlying thrombophilia or blood disorder of the baby.


A condition called chorioamnionitis which is an infection of the uterus is often an inciting factor in causing a neonatal stroke. That in conjunction with poor oxygenation or blood flow or hypoxia and ischemia are often an inciting mechanism for causing a baby’s stroke.

Diagnosing a Fetal Stroke

Oftentimes diagnosing fetal stroke or newborn stroke can be difficult because the symptoms can be somewhat subtle in that a baby can be discharged from the hospital after 3 days like a typical newborn and then 6 months down the road there are signs and symptoms either from a seizure or from a delay in walking that leads to an MRI or CT scan which then shows the stroke.

If a mother is in labor and there are signs and symptoms of decreased blood flow to the baby or signs of an infection and a baby then goes on to suffer a stroke one needs to consider and investigate whether interventions or action could have been taken by the health care providers in order to protect the baby from suffering a stroke.

Learn more about Neonatal strokes from the resources below: