Birth Asphyxia Leads to Birth Injuries
When a mother is giving birth in the delivery room, it’s often one of the happiest days of their lives. But when something goes wrong, like a birth injury, it can quickly turn into one of the scariest. One of the most common birth injuries is known as birth asphyxia.
What is birth asphyxia?
Either during or directly following birth, a baby is at risk of being deprived of oxygen to their brain or other organs, a condition known as birth asphyxia. This may happen before, during, or right after birth. When a baby is deprived of oxygen, their cells cannot work properly, allowing waste products (acids) to build up in the cells, causing temporary or permanent damage.This condition often leads to lifelong disability, birth defects, and sometimes leads to an infant’s death. All these possibilities are extremely scary.
Birth Asphyxia during pregnancy may be recognized during delivery or just before by monitoring the vital signs of the baby. In these cases, an emergency c-section is often performed. In other cases, the condition may not be recognized, causing a baby to be born vaginally while in distress. Often, this distress shows up as a silent birth, with the baby making no noise immediately after delivery.
Causes of Birth Asphyxia
Common causes of birth asphyxia include:
- Prolapsed or pinched umbilical cord during delivery
- Hypoxemia (too little oxygen in the mother’s blood)
- Strenuous, lengthy, or difficult birth
- Placental abruption occurring too soon (placenta separating from the uterus)
- Infection present in the mother or baby
- Blockage or defect in the airway
- High blood pressure or low blood pressure in the mother
- Fetal Anemia (baby’s blood cells are too low or can’t carry enough oxygen)
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (when an infant breathes in a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid effectively choking the baby).
- Premature birth, causing the lungs to be underdeveloped
Birth Asphyxia Causes, Continued
Asphyxia may occur from several causes, some of which are unavoidable, while others result from negligent or improper medical care. Low levels of oxygen in the mother’s blood stream could lead to asphyxia of the infant. Lowered respiration after anesthesia, such as an epidural, can lead to a depleted oxygen supply to the baby. Sudden drops in blood pressure, prior to or during birth, are also risk factors for asphyxia. In other cases, the oxygen can be cut off due to placental detachment from the uterus, a condition known as placental abruption. A pinched or obstructed umbilical cord during pregnancy may also lead to birth asphyxia.
Birth asphyxia may still occur after the baby is born. This may be due simply to a difficult pregnancy. Blood pressure or respiratory abnormalities may cause asphyxia. Also, blood disorders such as anemia in the infant may prevent the blood from carrying enough oxygen.
What happens during birth asphyxia?
Two types of chemical changes may happen when oxygen levels in the newborn are decreased. The first is known as hypoxemia, which are low levels of blood oxygen. The second is acidosis, which is the presence of too much acid in the blood.
If a baby’s heart rate and blood pressure are lower than normal at birth, this is an indication of asphyxia. Left untreated, the baby could suffer severe brain damage. The baby needs to be treated as soon as risk factors are detected to prevent lifelong debilitation. If the baby is still in the uterus, the mother can be given oxygen throughout the delivery. A cesarean section may be required if the problems persist. If the baby is already born, the medical team may ventilate the baby and administer heart and blood pressure medication.
Cerebral palsy, a term for several conditions resulting from brain damage, may occur from asphyxia, as may several other mental disorders and diseases. When parents are faced with this heartbreaking situation, they first need to seek expert medical attention from medical professionals specializing in asphyxia-related conditions. Time is critical as the situation will worsen without treatment and the baby’s lifelong outlook will diminish quickly.
Two Stages of Birth Asphyxia
Two stages of injury occur when a baby is deprived of oxygen before, during, or after birth. The first stage begins within minutes when oxygen is lacking or completely cutoff. This causes immediate cell damage to occur with the initial lack oxygen in the blood.
The second stage of damage is known as “reperfusion injury“. This stage can last anywhere from days to weeks. Reperfusion occurs after normal blood flow and supply of oxygen is restored to the brain as toxins are released from the damaged cells into the organs and blood stream.
Symptoms of Birth Asphyxia
Recognizable or detectable symptoms of asphyxia include:
- Infant’s skin is blue or pale in color
- Low heart rate
- Weak breathing
- No breathing
- Poor muscle tone or weak reflexes
- Meconium in amniotic fluid
- Too much acid in the infant’d blood
- Infant experiencing seizures
Treating Birth Asphyxia
Getting fast and effective treatment for your infant as soon as asphyxia is detected is critical to decreasing the chances of short-term or long-term damaging to your child. The sooner problem is noticed and rectified, the better chance your baby has of not being permanently disabled by the lack of the oxygen.
Mild cases of birth asphyxia are treated with immediate breathing support until the baby can breath well on their own. Babies with more serious signs of asphyxia may need a breathing machine, respiratory therapy, fluids, and medicine to control blood pressure and prevent seizures.
In extreme or unique cases, more advanced techniques can be used to treat birth asphyxia. These include: high-frequency ventilation, inhaled nitric oxide, controlled hypothermia, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, among others.
Birth Asphyxia Statistics
Birth asphyxia is a significant issue that greatly contributes to infant injuries and mortality. Here are some of the most significant statistics on birth asphyxia.
- Birth asphyxia is the 5th largest cause of infant mortality
- Accounts for 900,000 deaths each year, worldwide
- Birth asphyxia occurs in about 4 out of every 1,000 full-term births
- This number increases when babies are born prematurely
Can babies fully recover from birth asphyxia?
Whether or not a baby can fully recover from an asphyxia birth injury depends on the severeness of the initial injury; more specifically, how long the baby’s cells went without oxygen. Babies that went shorter amounts of time without oxygen, and were diagnosed with mild or moderate asphyxia, have a possibility of fully recovering. However, if the baby went an extended period of time without enough oxygen to their brain or other organs, they may have permanent injury.
This type of long term depravation of oxygen, or acute birth asphyxia, could permanently affect a baby’s brain, lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, bowels, or other organs. It may also lead to organ failure and even death.
Birth Injury Attorneys – Dolman Law Group
It is also important to speak with an attorney who is experienced in birth related injuries. The lawyer will help you to determine if medical malpractice was wholly or partially responsible for your child’s condition. The lawyer can check the records of monitoring equipment used before, during and after labor which shows the oxygen levels in the mother and baby, respiration, heartbeat, blood pressure, and more. Whether or not the doctor took all possible steps to prevent asphyxia and the resulting damage will be evident from medical records and facts. If more could have been done to prevent the damage that occurred, the doctor could be held legally responsible. It is important to act quickly because the time between the birth and filing a case is limited.
A child who has severe brain damage from birth is going to need lifelong special care. This care is very costly. The birth related injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group will help you recover the funds that you deserve to care for your child. Reach out to Dolman Law Group today and speak with a medical malpractice attorney. There is no cost or obligation for an evaluation of your case.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765