Neurological Disorders in Newborns

Discovering that your new baby has a brain condition is not easy, and it can bring a lot of unknowns to your life. The pediatric neurologists at Henry Ford Health specialize in treating newborns and babies still in the womb.

We’re with you every step of the way through your pregnancy, delivery and beyond. If you and your baby need care before delivery, our high-risk pregnancy experts provide evaluation, testing and treatment. Our neonatologists (specialists in newborn care) offer the highest level of care for critically ill babies from the moment they’re delivered.

What are neurological disorders in newborns?

A baby’s brain, spinal cord and nerves (the nervous system) begin to develop during the first month of pregnancy. Neurological disorders occur when an injury or other problem affects this development before, during or shortly after birth.

Sometimes, babies are born with neurological disorders that develop during pregnancy. In other cases, complications during delivery can cause or increase a baby’s risk of developing a neurological disorder. Babies born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) have a higher risk of a neurological disorder.

Care for newborn neurological disorders at Henry Ford: Why choose us?

At Henry Ford, we provide specialized care for newborns, especially premature babies, to help them have the best possible start in life. Highlights of our program include:

  • Pediatric and neonatal expertise: Our team includes highly trained experts with experience in neonatology (newborn care), neurology, neurosurgery, neuropsychology, nursing and other fields of medicine. We meet in weekly conferences to review patient cases and decide together on an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan for your child.
  • Highest level of care for newborns: Our level 4 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides the highest level of care for critically ill newborns. Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists, neonatologists and other specialists work closely with moms who have high-risk pregnancies. The team is on hand at delivery to provide immediate care for your baby and for you. Learn more about our level 4 NICU.
  • Compassionate, family-centered approach: Neurological disorders affect the whole family, which is why we meet with you and your family in group visits. We take plenty of time, in our one-hour appointments, to provide counseling and age-appropriate education about conditions. Our team helps the whole family understand the condition and what’s next for your child’s care.
  • Prenatal evaluation and treatment: If your healthcare provider finds signs of a problem during a routine ultrasound, we can help. We have experience in the latest imaging technology and other diagnostics for evaluating babies in the womb. By identifying problems early, we can plan your delivery and your baby’s treatment to help them have the best possible start in life.

Symptoms and types of neurological disorders in newborns

Neurological disorders cause various signs and symptoms depending on the type of disorder. In many cases, a baby may not show signs of any problems for months after birth. Some signs are noticeable at or soon after birth, such as:

  • Abnormal heart rate or breathing, either too slow or too fast
  • Decreased alertness or consciousness
  • Difficulty sucking and feeding
  • Fussiness or excessive sleepiness
  • Problems with muscle tone, such as weakness, floppiness, stiffness or spasticity (uncontrollable muscle contractions)
  • Seizures or other abnormal movements
  • Weak cry

Congenital neurological conditions

Congenital means present at birth, and these conditions can occur if the brain and spinal cord don’t form properly. Some commonly known types are cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain) and spina bifida.


Muscle weakness or reduced muscle tone can be a condition itself or a symptom of another condition.

Intracranial hemorrhage

Premature babies can be at risk for bleeding in the brain because the blood vessels in their brains are more fragile.

Neonatal encephalopathy

Neonatal encephalopathy (NE) is reduced neurological function in a newborn that can result from several causes, some of which begin before birth. We begin testing in the NICU to identify the specific cause.

Neonatal seizures

These sudden, excessive surges of electrical activity in the brain occur during the first month of life, most commonly in premature babies. Learn more about seizures and epilepsy in children.

Periventricular leukomalacia

This brain injury damages small areas of white tissue, which is near fluid-filled areas called ventricles, in the brain. Because this area contains nerves that transmit messages from the brain to the muscles, periventricular leukomalacia can increase the risk of movement disorders or developmental delays.

Evaluation and treatment for neurological disorders in newborns

Our experienced pediatric team specializes in identifying a wide variety of neurological disorders in babies at birth or even before. If your doctor notices a problem during a routine ultrasound, we can do a prenatal evaluation.

Our team for prenatal evaluation includes specialists in high-risk pregnancy, neonatology (newborn care) and genetics. They carefully plan delivery so that your baby receives immediate treatment after arrival. Learn more about pediatric neurologic evaluation and treatment for neurological disorders in newborns, including surgical and nonsurgical options.

Take the next step

Let us help you schedule an appointment, call (800) 436-7936.


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