When something goes wrong during the birthing process, like a birth injury, it can quickly turn from one of the happiest to one of the scariest days of someone’s life. Doctors and other medical professionals involved in childbirth typically do everything they can to prevent any issues that can lead to a birth injury. However, there are cases where a medical professional’s negligence leads to harm to an innocent child.
One of the injuries we often see appearing in birth injury lawsuits is birth asphyxia, otherwise known as perinatal asphyxia. Another name for this condition is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or H.I.E.. Birth asphyxia occurs when the baby’s brain does not receive enough oxygen and blood flow, which can lead to weak breathing, low heart rate, and seizures. Learn what legal actions you can take if your baby suffers from birth Asphyxia.
What is Brain Asphyxia?
One of the most damaging and catastrophic birth injuries is Birth asphyxia which is a condition that results from a baby having low oxygen intake before, during, or after labor and delivery. Asphyxiation of a baby can result in abnormal heart rate, low pH levels, weak breathing, and conditions such as hypoxemia and acidosis. The WHO definition of birth asphyxia is “the failure to establish breathing at birth.
Brain asphyxia is the main cause of brain damage to a baby while in utero. Unfortunately, many asphyxiated babies have suffered this birth trauma due to improper or negligent medical care from doctors and other medical professionals.
Brain asphyxia is as severe as it sounds, as a baby not receiving the proper amount of oxygen can cause life-threatening consequences. If a medical professional identifies the problem early, they can place the baby in a hyperbaric oxygen tank to supply supplemental oxygen to the baby. However, the effect of birth asphyxia can still cause permanent damage to the brain and vital organs.
What Happens to the Brain When a Baby Doesn’t Get Enough Oxygen?
Oxygen deprivation at birth in infants means their cells cannot work properly. It allows waste products such as acids to build up in the cells, causing temporary or permanent health issues. This condition often leads to lifelong disability, birth defects, and sometimes even death. Brain damage begins to occur within approximately four minutes without oxygen, with the risk of death coming after approximately four to six minutes without oxygen.
Birth asphyxia during pregnancy may be recognized either during delivery or just before by monitoring the baby’s vital signs. In these cases, an emergency cesarean section (c-section) is often performed. In other cases, the condition may not be recognized, leading to the baby being born in distress.
Birth Asphyxia Statistics
Birth asphyxia is a significant issue that greatly contributes to infant injuries and mortality. Without a solid flow of oxygen, a baby can suffer significant organ damage and possibly die from severe complications.
The following are some important statistics about birth asphyxia:
- Birth asphyxia is the 5th largest cause of infant mortality
- Birth asphyxia accounts for 900,000 deaths worldwide each year
- Birth asphyxia occurs in about 4 out of every 1,000 full-term births
- The chances of birth asphyxia increase when babies are born prematurely
What Causes Birth Asphyxia?
Asphyxia may occur due to several causes, some resulting from medical malpractice. Low oxygen levels in the mother’s bloodstream could lead to asphyxia of the infant, for instance. Lowered respiration after anesthesia, such as an epidural, can also lead to a depleted oxygen supply to the baby. It may also result from blood pressure drops in the baby before or during birth. If a doctor does not notice these issues and fails to remedy them, they can risk asphyxiating the baby.
Other common causes of birth asphyxia include:
- Umbilical cord asphyxia or problems with the umbilical cord (prolapsed or pinched umbilical cord during delivery or cord wrapping around the baby’s neck)
- Hypoxemia, or too little oxygen in the mother’s blood
- Strenuous, lengthy, or otherwise difficult birth
- Placenta separating from the uterus too soon
- 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 cell count is too low or the cells can’t carry enough oxygen)
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome, or when the amniotic fluid mixes with the first bowel movement in the baby’s lungs after birth )
- Premature birth causes the lungs to be underdeveloped
- Delay coming out of the birth canal
In other cases, placental abruption can cut off oxygen when the placenta detaches from the uterus. A pinched or obstructed umbilical cord during pregnancy can also cause the mother to give birth to an asphyxiated baby.
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The Two Stages of Birth Asphyxia in Newborns
Following your baby suffering from birth asphyxia, they will develop symptoms in the minutes, days, and weeks after the birth. These symptoms come in two stages.
The following are the two stages of birth asphyxia:
- The first stage begins within minutes when the baby’s oxygen is lacking or completely cut off. This causes immediate cell damage to occur.
- The second stage of damage is known as “reperfusion injury “and can last anywhere from days to weeks. Reperfusion occurs after the normal blood flow and supply of oxygen restores to the brain as toxins are released from the damaged cells into the organs and bloodstream.
Signs of birth asphyxia can also appear after the baby is born if the mother suffers a difficult pregnancy. Blood pressure or respiratory abnormalities may cause asphyxia in newborns. Also, blood disorders such as anemia in the infant may prevent the blood from carrying enough oxygen.
Symptoms of Birth Asphyxia
After you give birth to your baby, there may be signs you notice that worry you about your baby’s health. They may have suffered birth asphyxia and could be at risk of severe health complications. Birth asphyxia must be recognized immediately, as even a couple of minutes not recognizing the problems can lead to your baby’s death.
The following are some of the symptoms of birth asphyxia:
- The infant’s skin is blue or pale in color
- Low heart rate
- Weak breathing
- No breathing
- Poor muscle tone or weak reflexes
- Meconium (fecal matter) in the amniotic fluid
- Acidosis (too much acid in the infant’s blood)
- Infant seizures
What Chemical Changes Occur During Birth Asphyxia?
If your baby suffers from birth asphyxia, they will experience chemical changes in their body that can lead to long-term health complications. These chemical changes can cause more severe symptoms in the minutes following your baby’s birth.
The following are the two types of chemical changes that happen during birth asphyxia:
- Hypoxemia: This is when the baby has a low blood oxygen level, but the supply is not entirely cut off. It occurs when the baby cannot breathe in enough oxygen or the oxygen they breathe in cannot get to their blood. It can result in severe headaches, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
- Acidosis: This is when there is too much acid present in the blood. The low oxygen levels in the baby’s body prevent the kidneys and lungs from balancing their pH levels, which can lead to excess acid accumulation in the body and blood. Acidosis can cause shallow breathing, jaundice, fatigue, and confusion.
If a baby’s heart rate and blood pressure are lower than normal at birth or they have a low heart rate after delivery, this indicates asphyxia. Left untreated, the baby could suffer severe brain damage. The baby needs treatment as soon as risk factors are detected to prevent long-term effects and debilitation caused by fetal distress during labor.
If the baby is still in the uterus, the mother can receive oxygen during labor and throughout the delivery. A c-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.
Long-Term Complications of Birth Asphyxia
Birth asphyxia is not just a concern in the present, rather it can affect a person from childbirth onward. When birth asphyxia occurs, your child may suffer a wide range of complications that can affect their entire life and future. There are conditions and disorders that a baby can suffer from because of birth asphyxia that can affect them for the rest of their lives.
The following are some of the long-term complications of birth asphyxia:
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delays
- Speech delays
- Learning disabilities
- Hearing and visual impairments
- Behavioral disorders
- Feeding complications
- Orthopedic issues
Cerebral Palsy Caused by a Brain Asphyxia
Brain asphyxia can cause several congenital disorders, with cerebral palsy being one of the most catastrophic. Cerebral palsy is a term for several conditions caused by brain damage that affects a person’s ability to control certain muscles. It may affect a baby’s body movements, muscle control, coordination, reflexes, and balance.
Cerebral palsy does not progress further once a person has it. However, the symptoms can worsen over time unless a doctor or medical professional treats the disorder. When parents face this heartbreaking situation, they first need to seek expert medical attention from medical professionals specializing in asphyxia-related conditions. Time is critical here, as the situation will worsen without treatment, and the baby’s lifelong outlook will diminish quickly.
Treating Birth Asphyxia
Getting fast and effective treatment, such as oxygen therapy, for your infant as soon as asphyxia is detected is critical to decreasing the chances of short-term or long-term damage to your child. The quicker the problem is noticed and rectified, the better chance the lack of oxygen will not permanently disable your baby. Mild cases of birth asphyxia are treated with immediate breathing support until the baby can breathe well on its 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 treat birth asphyxia. These include:
- High-frequency ventilation
- Inhaled nitric oxide
- Controlled hypothermia
- Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
Can Babies Fully Recover from Birth Asphyxia?
Whether a baby can fully recover from an asphyxia birth injury depends on the severity of the initial injury or, 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 goes an extended period of time without enough oxygen to their brain or other organs, they may suffer a permanent injury.
This type of long-term deprivation of oxygen, or acute birth asphyxia, could permanently affect a baby’s organs, possibly leading to organ failure. The following are some of the vital organs that can receive damage from birth asphyxia:
- Blood vessels
Can You File a Medical Malpractice Claim for Birth Asphyxia?
Birth asphyxia can result from a condition of the pregnant person or from medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is when a health care professional behaves negligently by deviating from the standard of care and causes harm. Their negligent actions can breach the standard of care, the accepted industry standard for the level of care patients should receive.
In the case of birth asphyxia, if the doctor does something to restrict oxygen flow or notices the baby is being asphyxiated but doesn’t do enough to stop it, they behave negligently and could be liable for a medical malpractice claim. Their actions, intentional or not, directly affect your baby’s birth asphyxia. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer today to determine if medical malpractice was to blame for your baby’s birth injury and whether you can file a claim with the doctor’s insurance company.
Filing a Birth Injury Lawsuit Because of Birth Asphyxia
Unfortunately, many babies do not fully recover after a devastating birth injury such as birth asphyxia. They may struggle with learning disabilities, motor coordination, feeding issues, and other developmental delays. At Dolman Law Group, our birth injury lawyers want to take the legal burdens off your shoulders during this time.
We know the complications that can arise from birth asphyxia, and we work tirelessly to help you and your family. We can hold negligent doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and institutions accountable for the harm they’ve caused.
You and your family should not endure unnecessary financial burdens because of someone else’s negligence. Your child may need a significant amount of compensation to handle the medical expenses and long-term care they need after a birth asphyxia injury.
Damages You Can Claim in a Birth Injury Lawsuit
In order to properly file a birth injury lawsuit, one needs to know what damages they will seek compensation for. Your birth injury attorney will assist you in determining what damages you will be able to seek compensation for, as well as calculate the exact value of these damages. Of all of these damages, the most obvious is the medical cost of treatment for birth injuries.
Even people with excellent insurance and savings often find themselves in severe financial hardship trying to deal with endless medical bills after a birth injury. Medical expenses are considered economic damages, which are damages that involve direct financial losses caused by an injury. In the case of a birth injury, economic damages can include:
- The cost of disability therapy and treatment
- Special education
- Lost parent wages
- Legal fees
There can also be non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of quality of life. These do not come with an easily calculable price tag but are no less valid. A birth injury lawyer can assist you with determining how much you, your family, and your baby have suffered due to the birth asphyxia and how much compensation you could pursue.
Should You Hire a Birth Injury Attorney?
It is important to speak with an attorney experienced in birth-related injuries. Our birth injury lawyers will help you determine if medical malpractice was wholly or partially responsible for your child’s condition. We can check the records of monitoring equipment and investigate whether the doctor took all the possible steps necessary to prevent asphyxia and the resulting damage.
If more could have been done to prevent the damage, your doctor could be held legally responsible. It is important to act quickly because the time between your child’s birth and filing your case is limited. A child who has severe brain damage from birth is going to need lifelong special care, and this care is very costly.
A birth injury lawyer can help pursue compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company, which will try to limit your settlement to keep their profits up. They will search for any information they can find to reduce the amount of compensation for your baby’s injuries. An experienced birth injury lawyer can help combat these attempts and work to secure fair compensation to pay for expensive medical care to heal your baby.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Birth Injury Claim
Birth asphyxia can have devastating effects on a child, with just a couple of minutes of asphyxiation negatively changing the trajectory of their life. It can lead to both physical and emotional damage, with expensive medical costs associated with trying to treat the damage done to your child.
The birth injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group will help you recover the funds you need to properly care for your child. They have vast experience in pursuing compensation for damage done to babies during childbirth. They can apply that experience to your case and offer you specialized attention to help you receive the compensation you deserve to get your child the medical care they desperately need.
Reach out to our team today to speak with a medical malpractice attorney. There is no cost or obligation for an evaluation of your case, and we don’t get paid until you do. Call us at 727-451-6900 or contact us online.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765