Brain injuries affect about 3 of every 1,000 babies born at full-term in the United States. Approximately half of these injuries involve oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Newborn babies who endure oxygen deprivation may sustain a brain injury leading to developmental delays, cerebral palsy or other serious conditions that may require ongoing treatment. When a preventable error by a doctor or obstetrical team causes a birth injury, the health care provider and their malpractice insurer may be held accountable.
Our compassionate birth injury attorneys at The Colleran Firm in Philadelphia represent mothers and babies who were harmed by substandard medical care during labor and delivery including birth injuries caused by oxygen deprivation. We recognize that your family is going through a difficult time. Our attorneys will treat you with consideration and work to help you get the support you need to move forward. For a free consultation with a Philadelphia labor and delivery negligence attorney, please contact us online.
Fetal hypoxia is a condition in which the oxygen supply to the baby’s bloodstream is reduced. Some oxygen supply reaches the baby’s brain, but the amount is insufficient for the brain to function at full capacity. Brain injuries caused by cerebral hypoxia may occur if there is a sharp drop in blood pressure or the flow of oxygen to the brain has been disrupted and an obstetrician fails to address the situation immediately. The length of time the oxygen supply is interrupted determines the severity of the brain injury. The symptoms of mild cerebral hypoxia include inattentiveness and a decrease in coordination. Severe hypoxia can cause coma, seizures, and brain death.
Anoxia is a type of fetal brain injury caused by a total lack of oxygen to the brain for a period of time. Brain cells are highly sensitive to lack of oxygen and can start to die in a matter of minutes. A profound lack of oxygen is linked to a severe brain injury or infant death.
Birth asphyxia, also known as perinatal asphyxia or neonatal asphyxia, results when a baby goes without sufficient oxygen during the birth process long enough to sustain physical harm. A doctor’s failure to recognize signs of a difficult natural birth and failure to perform a cesarean section can cause an extended delivery and the resulting harm may be a brain injury caused by inadequate oxygen. The common symptoms of birth asphyxia are abnormal fetal heartbeat and low pH levels before birth and, at birth, low heart rate, bluish or pale skin color, weak muscle tone and weak breathing.
Prompt treatment is required to minimize the damage to the baby. Doctors may try to address the condition by giving the mother supplemental oxygen before delivery or performing an emergency delivery or cesarean section delivery if the baby is showing signs of distress.
A number of factors may cause a baby to experience reduced levels of oxygen during birth. They include:
Doctors have only a narrow window of time to respond if a baby’s oxygen supply is disrupted. If the obstetrical team overlooks significant changes in the fetus indicating fetal stress or fails to monitor the mother and respond appropriately, a baby may sustain preventable brain damage causing lasting neurological changes. The health care provider may be liable for labor and delivery negligence.
Brain injury that occurs as a result of lack of oxygen may cause a newborn to have cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disorder. Cerebral palsy may develop during a baby’s development in the womb, or it may be caused by a brain injury during the birthing process. Pressure on the umbilical cord may cause the baby’s oxygen supply to be interrupted or cut off. CP is not curable, but a child may benefit from physical therapy.
Restriction of blood flow is known as ischemia. Reduced cerebral blood and lack of oxygen are the primary cause of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is characterized by evidence of acute brain injury. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is another name for perinatal asphyxia. HIE may be mild, moderate or severe. Some children with HIE face lifelong learning issues or motor impairments, and it is a common cause of childhood seizures. Symptoms of severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy include seizures, irregular breathing and absence of typical neonatal reflexes such as sucking and grasping. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy due to fetal asphyxia causes a significant number of infant deaths and severe impairments such as developmental delays, speech delays and motor disorders.
Not all babies reach developmental milestones at the same time. But a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation may only be evident when a baby exhibits signs of being behind in age appropriate motor skills development such as being slow to crawl or pull up or stand. Your doctor can determine if your baby’s delays were caused by a brain injury.
A lack of oxygen may be fatal to a baby so an obstetrical team should be alert to any indication that a baby is not getting adequate oxygen during the birthing process. Brain cells will start to deteriorate quickly if deprived of oxygen. If medical negligence causes oxygen deprivation leading to death, the parent may have a legal right to file an infant wrongful death lawsuit to hold the doctor or health care provider accountable.
A family raising a child who has suffered a birth injury due to oxygen deprivation will need all the resources available for care and treatment. If you suspect that a health care provider’s preventable error caused your baby’s condition, it makes sense to have a knowledgeable birth asphyxia lawyer at The Colleran Firm review your medical records and discuss your legal options with you. To schedule a free consultation, please call (866) 251-0603 today and check out our page on how to prepare for a consultation to review your case.