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One of the common birth injuries that can occur is birth asphyxia, which happens when there is a lack of oxygen during birth or soon after. Also known as neonatal or perinatal asphyxia, this type of birth injury can result in permanent brain damage or other serious complications that may require immediate treatment. Out of every 1,000 full-term births, four will experience birth asphyxia.

Learn more about the condition and consequences of birth asphyxia and how the caring legal team at Goodman Acker can help you and your family seek compensation for medical malpractice if your newborn suffered injuries as a result of birth asphyxia.

What Is Birth Asphyxia?

Asphyxia means a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Birth asphyxia occurs when an infant experiences oxygen deprivation during birth or shortly after. An infant who experiences birth asphyxia does not get enough oxygen to their brain and other vital organs, resulting in a lack of nutrients reaching those organs either during birth or immediately after. Without the proper oxygen and nutrients, the newborn’s cells cannot function properly. Damage can occur when acids build up in the cells, resulting in severe conditions such as fetal acidosis or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (also known as HIE).

The level of harm depends on a few factors, such as how long the infant experienced oxygen deprivation, how low the oxygen level is, and how long before the correct treatment is administered.

What Causes Birth Asphyxia?

Many causes of birth asphyxia and many medical complications can arise during pregnancy. Lower oxygen levels in newborns can be caused by respiratory problems, severe anemia, heart or lung disease, or low blood pressure.

Causes of birth asphyxia include the following:

  • Heart or respiratory problems in the mother, resulting in too little oxygen in her blood before or during birth.
  • Anesthesia issues for the mother, resulting in lowered respiration levels.
  • When the placenta is delivered first, known as placenta previa.
  • Other problems with the placenta include separation from the womb too early or poor placenta function overall.
  • Blood pressure problems in the mother, such as preeclampsia or blood pressure that is too high or too low.
  • Difficult, lengthy, or prolonged delivery.
  • Umbilical cord problems during delivery, such as a short cord, knot cord, cord prolapse, nuchal cord wrapped around the neck, or a compressed umbilical cord resulting in decreased blood flow.
  • Infection in the mother or baby.
  • The infant’s airway is blocked or not formed properly.
  • Low amniotic fluid.
  • Anemia in the baby.

What Are the Symptoms of Birth Asphyxia?

Symptoms of birth asphyxia are usually noticeable, especially as the medical staff carefully looks over the newborn immediately after birth. Signs of neonatal asphyxia include low heart rate, pale or bluish skin, or if the infant is weak or not breathing. Other signs include weak reflexes, poor muscle tone, abnormal heart rate, fetal acidosis (high amounts of acid in the blood), or meconium in the amniotic fluid. The newborn may also experience seizures.

If the symptoms of birth asphyxia are missed or overlooked by medical personnel, irreversible brain damage may occur to the baby. If not treated quickly or the damage becomes too serious, other permanent effects can happen. Complications result depending on the part of the brain damaged and the severity of the impact. Some of the long-term issues due to birth asphyxia include developmental delays, learning disorders, motor disorders, and even epilepsy or cerebral palsy.

How Do You Treat Birth Asphyxia?

Babies with mild asphyxia are given breathing support immediately and are closely monitored until they can breathe on their own. For newborns with more serious asphyxia, many treatment options can be done, such as:

  • Brain or body cooling (hypothermia) to reduce the risk of brain damage.
  • Breathing machines (ventilators) for assisted breathing.
  • Inhaled nitric oxide (INO) to assist in opening the blood vessels in the lungs.
  • Extracorporeal life support, to do the work of breathing in the infant’s lungs if they are not functioning correctly or need to heal before they can work on their own.
  • Medicine to regulate the infant’s blood pressure.

Can Birth Asphyxia Be Prevented?

If the mother and baby aren’t closely monitored, birth asphyxia can happen without anyone knowing, and it can be challenging to prevent or predict. However, proper prenatal care is essential to identify mothers who may be high-risk for complications resulting in birth asphyxia. Ways to minimize risk or complications for high-risk mothers include administering extra oxygen before the delivery or scheduling a C-section. The other important factor is providing immediate monitoring and treatment to newborns after birth to catch signs of complications and minimize any damage from the potential lack of oxygen.

The responsibility of preventing and treating birth injuries lies with the medical staff, who must have adequate abilities and knowledge to treat and care for the mother and baby. The medical team must prepare for the possibility of a complication to occur and act quickly if one does arise, even if the pregnancy has been free of complications before delivery.

How Can Goodman Acker Help?

At Goodman Acker, we understand the impact that birth asphyxia and brain injuries can have on your newborn and the entire family. We are a compassionate, caring, and experienced team ready to advocate for families and children who’ve experienced medical negligence resulting in birth asphyxia. We investigate these cases closely to determine if the medical practitioners who attended your baby committed medical malpractice. If this is the case, the medical personnel are responsible for what happened, and you and your family could be entitled to compensation.

If your child has experienced a birth injury such as birth asphyxia and has been diagnosed with other serious conditions, as a result, contact the law offices of Goodman Acker. You can reach us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by phone or via our secure online messaging system. A knowledgeable member of our team will be happy to answer any questions you may have or get you set up for a free consultation.