Childbirth is safer now that it was 100 years ago. Nonetheless, things can and do go wrong during labor and delivery. When a baby is deprived of oxygen at birth, even for a short while, there can be lasting effects as a result.  The longer a baby is without oxygen during birth, the more severe the effects.

The lack of oxygen is called asphyxiation and it can happen for a number of reasons during labor and delivery. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of brain damage in a baby during the birth process. This is sometimes known as the baby being born “blue.” It is estimated that approximately 3 in 1,000 have some brain damage during birth.

What is HIE?

This birth injury is sometimes called hypoxic-ischemic-encephalopathy (HIE), and was the subject of a recent study conducted by University College, Cork.

 This was a longitudinal study in which the brain waves of babies who had been deprived of oxygen at birth were recorded at birth and for a period of five years after birth. The study revealed learning and behavioral issues and conditions in these children including autism and attention deficit disorder, among others for the milder cases. In the more severe cases, cerebral palsy or death may occur.

Cerebral palsy (CP) affects a person’s ability to control their muscles. It can occur because of brain damage. It has been known to be one of the effects of asphyxiation during birth. Cerebral palsy has no cure, but treatments can help a child’s quality of life. A child with CP will likely need lifelong care.

Causes of Lack of Oxygen at Birth

There are many possible causes for oxygen deprivation. Some involve problems with the mother’s condition, some with the baby’s, and some involve possible negligence on the part of the health care providers. 

Some of the most prevalent causes include:

  • Eclampsia or preeclampsia: This condition raises the mother’s blood pressure to dangerous levels and can cause seizures in the mother and in the infant.
  • Placental separation from the uterus too soon: This leads directly to a lack of oxygen for the baby.
  • Insufficient oxygen in the mother’s blood: This will lead to less oxygen for the baby.
  • Infections such as  rubella (German Measles), or any sexually transmitted disease (STD): STDs can cause complications at birth for the mother and the child.
  • Long and complicated delivery: The longer the labor and delivery, the more likely the presence of complications at birth.
  • Umbilical cord problems: This includes the cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck.
  • Baby’s blocked airway: This can be a function of positioning during the birthing process.

This list is not exhaustive. It is indicative though, of the myriad ways that a baby’s health can be influenced during the birthing process.

Negligence During Birth

Health care providers are trained in spotting complications during the birth process. But even with the best health care providers, sometimes things can go wrong. 

Sometimes, when a birth is difficult, a healthcare provider will fail to spot a complication and that can lead to asphyxiation. When that happens, it is important to speak to a trusted attorney as soon as the issue is determined, and the child is treated.

An attorney with experience handling medical malpractice cases can help parents decide whether the issue lies in negligence during the birthing process. This will require expert opinions and testimony. But when faced with mounting medical expenses, a medical malpractice case may help parents and  the child deal with issues of continuing care.

Treatments

When the condition is spotted during birth, the baby’s body temperature can be dropped down by placing the baby in a cooling chamber for about 72 hours, or using a cooling cap. The baby’s temperature is lowered to  89.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This treatment is usually used in the more moderate cases of asphyxia. This cooling can mitigate some of the effects.

However, when the asphyxiation is more severe, or where the condition goes unnoticed, the condition can lead to profound physical and behavioral problems as the child grows.

In addition to autism and attention deficit disorder, a child may suffer from cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and permanent injury to the body and brain.

Call a Lawyer If Your Child Was Injured at Birth

This can lead to a lifetime of additional medical care and medical bills for the parents and the child. When this occurs because of negligence, a medical malpractice attorney can help. These cases are complicated, and you will need the help of an attorney experienced in this specialty. This is not a journey that you must take alone.

To learn more, call our law firm at (713) 224-4878 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.