When A Baby Does Not Get Enough Oxygen

The birth of a child should be a joyous occasion for parents. But when things go wrong, a child can sustain injuries that cause death or affect them for the rest of their life.

At The Daws Law Firm, we help families across the state of Texas and nationwide hold doctors accountable for preventable birth injuries.

How Birth Injuries Occur

Birth injury can occur before, during or after birth. There are a few common ways in which babies sustain birth injuries:

  • Cerebral or Erb's palsy
  • Hypoxic brain damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Skull fractures and bone damage

Lack Of Oxygen During Birth Causes Serious Brain Injury

One of the worst types of injuries occurs when the baby suffers a hypoxic injury during the labor process. Hypoxia is a condition that occurs when body tissues are deprived of oxygen. A prolonged lack of oxygen can cause serious and irreversible brain damage leading to organ failure and even death.

A baby's oxygen supply should be a top concern for the labor and delivery nurse as well as the OB-GYN. Fetal heart monitoring is used to monitor a fetus's oxygenation before birth where monitors are placed on the fetus and the mother and tracings are made that when interpreted properly will let the medical professionals know whether the fetus is in danger of oxygen deprivation. When signs of oxygen deprivation are either ignored or misinterpreted, brain injury can occur.

What Is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of brain damage that occurs when a baby fails to receive enough blood and oxygen to the brain before birth. Hypoxia refers to the lack of sufficient oxygen to the brain. Ischemic refers to the lack of sufficient blood to the brain. Encephalopathy refers to any condition caused by the lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

HIE affects 20 out of every 1000 full-term births and is the leading cause of fatalities and severe impairment for infants in the U.S. HIE is extremely dangerous because if it is not immediately treated when first indicated it can lead to death or permanent impairment. The full severity of HIE may not be known until the baby is three or four years old. Babies with moderate to severe HIE can have severe symptoms, including:

  • Developmental delays (such as pushing up on arms, crawling, standing or walking)
  • Epilepsy or cerebral palsy
  • Cognitive delays

After birth, babies are typically rated as having mild, moderate or severe HIE. The conditions of HIE vary depending on the severity of it. A baby with mild HIE can typically make a full recovery with no lasting effects.

How HIE Is Diagnosed

Post-birth testing, such as CT scans, MRIs, echocardiograms and ultrasounds can be used to confirm whether your baby has HIE. Other clinical factors are used to confirm its presence, such as the baby's blood acid (pH) level, the history of fetal heart tracings, organ function, heart rate, muscle tone and skin color.

Causes Of HIE

The causes of HIE vary and can occur before, during or after birth. Before birth (antepartum period), HIE can be caused by things like:

  • Heart disease or Preclampsia (high blood pressure)
  • Infection of the fetus
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

During labor and delivery (intrapartum period), complications causing HIE can include:

  • Failure to properly monitor or interpret a dangerous fetal heart rate
  • Failure to call for or carryout a C-section quickly
  • Failure to properly use Pitocin
  • Failure to properly instruct the mother to stop pushing
  • Trauma from forceps

After delivery (postpartum period), complications causing HIE can include:

  • Congenital brain malformations
  • Brain or skull trauma
  • Infant cardiac or pulmonary disease
  • Neonatal infections, including meningitis and sepsis

Treatments For HIE

Once HIE is diagnosed, the goal of any treatment is to support the baby's affected organs by stopping, slowing down or reversing the effects of HIE. How to treat HIE depends largely on what the suspected cause of it is and how severe it may be. Different treatment options include:

  • Cooling the baby's brain and body to reverse brain hypoxia caused by high temperatures
  • Hyperbaric oxygen treatment
  • Medication to control seizures
  • Mechanical ventilation to assist with breathing

How We Can Help You

Hypoxic injuries can be prevented with proper diagnosis and quick treatment action. If a hospital fails to act, your child can be left with life-altering injuries or worse. The Daws Law Firm understands how difficult this time can be, and we want to help.

Our lawyers can help your family uncover answers about how a baby was injured during birth. If you have questions around complications with your baby's birth, call 409-838-6000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our Beaumont office with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.