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Signs Your Newborn Suffered Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Your newborn may have been born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his little neck. The sight of that is traumatizing itself. Many children are fine, though, while sometimes it can deprive an infant of oxygen. Oxygen deprivation before, during, or shortly after birth can lead to hypoxia or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

The occurrence can lead to permanent brain damage. It is imperative to identify the signs and symptoms of HIE so that treatment can be timely administered. Here’s what you should be aware of.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of HIE?

The signs and symptoms of HIE, as described by Cerebral Palsy Group, vary depending on when it occurs. Below is a breakdown of signs to be cautious of before birth, during the neonatal period, and then after birth.

HIE Symptoms Before Birth

Even when a baby experiences a lack of oxygen in the womb, there will still be signs of fetal distress. One or more of the following may be present when HIE occurs before birth.

  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Severe maternal cramping and severe back pain
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate
  • Abnormal contractions
  • Abnormally low or high maternal weight gain
  • Maternal high blood pressure
  • Vaginal bleeding

HIE Symptoms in the Neonatal Period

One or more of the following may be present when HIE occurs during birth.

  • Low Apgar scores (tests administered to all babies when born that evaluate baby’s overall health) at five or 10 minutes
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Breathing problems
  • Low muscle tone
  • Organ failure or organ damage
  • Abnormal response to light
  • Hyperalert or lethargic
  • Coma

HIE Symptoms During Infancy

In some mild or moderate HIE cases, children may not experience obvious signs until infancy and – rarer yet – early childhood. One or more of the following may be present when HIE occurs after birth.

  • Seizures
  • Impaired motor function
  • Delayed developmental milestones
  • Delayed growth
  • Hearing and visual impairments

Why is it Important to Identify the Signs of HIE Promptly?

Identifying these signs and symptoms, especially when they occur before or during birth but even later, is key to treating the child. Waiting will result in irreparable damage. But early detection will allow a doctor to administer therapeutic hypothermia. There’s a small window to provide this treatment, however, and so if a medical professional fails to take the right precautions, tests, etc., and, therefore, fails to provide treatment timely, the infant will suffer permanent damage because of it. The medical professional can be held liable for medical malpractice.

If you believe your infant was a victim of HIE and medical negligence, it is important to see medical experts about your child’s wellbeing. It is also important to contact a birth injury medical malpractice attorney representing clients in your state. Though a lawsuit is not something you may want to deal with, keep in mind your child may need medical attention for years to come if not for his or her life. A birth injury lawsuit can help you get the compensation you need to care for your loved one.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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