Hypoxia is a dangerous condition that is the result of a lack of oxygen supply to a baby's brain during pregnancy or birth. The longer the brain is deprived of oxygen, the more serious the consequences are for the baby. Sometimes hypoxia can be the result of an undiagnosed birth defect or a negligent birth injury.
Hypoxia can occur as a result of a birth complication, from a surgical error by a doctor, from anesthesia complications, or from a doctor failing to monitor the mother and baby during pregnancy and delivery.
Hypoxia is the primary cause of infant mortality. According to the American Journal of Neuroradiology, between 2 and 10 out of every 1,000 newborns experience a lack of oxygen during birth.
25% of all babies who suffer hypoxia or anoxia will have permanent neurological issues, and premature babies are at a higher risk for injuries. In 2014 the United States premature birth rate was 11.4%.
Hypoxia is also the most expensive birth injury. 4 out of the 10 most expensive birth injuries are associated with hypoxia. Serious damage happens quickly with the condition and might result in a lifetime of additional medical care.
Anoxia is a similar condition where the baby suffers a complete lack of oxygen, unlike hypoxia where the baby may suffer reduced levels of oxygen. Both can have serious and permanent consequences for the baby. Hypoxia and anoxia are both specific medical terms for asphyxia, the general term for oxygen deprivation.
Causes and Warning Signs of Hypoxia
Hypoxia can be the result of birth complications where the baby stops breathing, or suffers reduced oxygen flow and cannot breathe properly, or it can be the result of conditions in the mother that were left undiagnosed or improperly treated.
- Prolonged labor
- A baby in breech position
- Problems with the umbilical cord, including a wrapped umbilical cord, and pressure on the cord, and prolapsed cord
- Fetal Distress, or an unusually slow or fast heart rate of the baby
- Shoulder dystocia
- Low blood pressure in the mother
- Heart disease in the mother or baby
- Placenta issues, like early detachment (Placental abruption)
- Preeclampsia or eclampsia
During pregnancy and birth, doctors should monitor the baby for fetal distress, neurological issues, and a healthy Apgar score after birth (Appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration). Doctors should be aware of preexisting conditions in the mother, and how those conditions could affect her baby.
If the baby's condition suddenly becomes serious during birth, doctors should be able to quickly perform an emergency C-section, or provide other quicker relief to the problem. Any delay in ordering a C-section when a baby is in distress can have serious consequences.
Doctors can also use a cooling therapy that slows brain swelling and damage. The treatment relies on a blanket filled with cool water.
In general, your doctor should be able to diagnose and solve most pregnancy complications related to hypoxia. If doctors are underprepared, fail to act in a timely manner, or make serious mistakes, your baby's life could be at risk.
Effects of Hypoxia
The effects of hypoxia depend on the seriousness of the incident of oxygen deprivation. Baby's brains are able to fully recover from a hypoxia event if quickly alleviated. But prolonged oxygen deprivation can result in serious, permanent consequences. Brain cells can start dying less than 5 minutes after they are cut off from oxygen, and there is no cure for serious brain damage. Though serious damage from hypoxia during birth is rare, many of the effects are permanent and could require costly medical care.
Serious consequences of hypoxia include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb's palsy
- Problems with the nervous system
- Vision damage
- Neurological or cognitive problems
- Behavioral issues
- Fetal death
Doctors may need to perform EKGs (electrocardiogram), an EEGs (electroencephalogram), or MRIs to assess the damage to the baby.
Hypoxia Birth Injury
A doctor's negligence during your child's birth can have permanent effects. Some possible signs of hypoxia due to negligence include an emergency C-section, use of a ventilator or oxygen support on the baby, CPR on the baby, or having the baby sent to intensive care after birth.
If your baby suffered hypoxia and now faces serious consequences as a result of a doctor's negligence during birth, contact our experienced attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian to learn about your legal options. Sometimes effects of hypoxia appear before or immediately after birth, but some effects can take months to become noticeable. The skilled attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian can help you reclaim medical costs and other compensation for negligent birth injuries.