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Even Mild Oxygen Deprivation at Birth Can Have Lasting Effects


Any time that the flow of oxygen to the brain is interrupted or disrupted, there may be serious or long-lasting health complications. The severity of these complications can vary, and are often based on risk factors like age, existing health conditions, health status, and more.

For newborn babies, even mild oxygen deprivation at birth can have lasting effects that influence their overall health and well-being for a lifetime. The cost of these lifelong conditions can be steep too, totaling into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars over a person’s lifetime.

If your child has been injured by a doctor’s or hospital’s negligent actions, your family deserves help.

Key Takeaways:

  • Birth asphyxia (oxygen deprivation) can occur before, during, or after labor.
  • Oxygen deprivation at birth can have several causes, including provider negligence and malpractice.
  • Immediate treatment can limit the impact of asphyxia.

Birth Asphyxia—What Is It and What Causes It?

Birth asphyxia (also called perinatal asphyxia) is the medical term for a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain before, during, or after birth.

Causes of birth asphyxiation include:

  • Placental abruption (the placenta pulling away from the uterine wall)
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Compression of the umbilical cord
  • Lack of sufficient oxygen in the mother’s blood
  • Difficult or prolonged labor
  • Infection in either the mother or baby
  • Blocked airways
  • Insufficient monitoring of mother or baby
  • Failure to perform a timely caesarean section (C-section)

Obstetricians are responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of their patients. Every doctor and nurse in charge of a pregnant patient’s care must carefully monitor them for signs of fetal distress. Any failure to monitor both mother and baby or any delay in responding to signs of distress can unnecessarily put a newborn in harm’s way.

The Short- and Long-Term Impacts of Oxygen Deprivation at Birth

Birth asphyxia can cause both short- and long-term harm among victims. This means that while some babies may recover and go on to live relatively healthy lives, others may develop life-long health conditions that require ongoing care and treatment.

Let’s take a closer look at the effects that insufficient oxygen at birth can have on a newborn.

Short-Term Health Complications

Short-term complications are most commonly associated with shorter periods of asphyxia, particularly when oxygen flow is disrupted for fewer than three to five minutes. Problems may include:

  • Acidosis (buildup of acid in the blood)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Blood clots or problems clotting

Any interruption in the flow of oxygen to the brain can have life-altering consequences. This is partially due to the two distinct stages of birth asphyxia.

  • First Stage – Occurs within minutes of initial lack of oxygen and causes initial harm to affected organs.
  • Second Stage – Often referred to as “reperfusion injury,” this stage can last for days or weeks after the initial asphyxia. As blood and oxygen are restored to the brain, damaged cells release toxins that cause further injury.

This means that your newborn could exhibit few symptoms or signs of injury in the immediate aftermath of birth asphyxiation, only to develop severe or life-altering complications in the days or weeks that follow.

Long-Term Health Complications

Severity and length of asphyxia plays a significant role in the development of possible long-term health complications. However, even mild oxygen deprivation can cause life-threatening or lifelong problems, such as:

  • Brain damage
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Liver or renal (kidney) dysfunction
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing or vision impairment
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Hyperactivity
  • Adulthood psychotic disorders
  • Schizophrenia

With proper care, treatment, and monitoring, birth asphyxia can be identified, treated, and even prevented in many cases. When doctors fail to meet the standards of care as established by the medical community and a child is harmed as a result, the injured party’s family has the right to take legal action.

Treatment Options for Birth Asphyxia

There are a variety of treatment options available for babies who have suffered birth asphyxia or a lack of oxygen during the labor and delivery process. Attending doctors will determine which treatment is most appropriate for the victim, or whether multiple treatments are necessary.

These may include:

  • Administering oxygen to the pregnant parent
  • Performing an emergency C-section
  • Using a suction to remove fluid from the baby’s airway
  • Placing the baby on a respirator
  • Using a breathing tube
  • Placing the baby in a hyperbaric oxygen tank
  • Administering medication to control seizures
  • Administering dialysis in the event of renal damage or dysfunction
  • Inducing hypothermia to prevent brain damage
  • Administering medication to lower blood pressure
  • Placing the baby on life support

Appropriate and timely treatment can minimize the impact of asphyxia before, during, and after labor. However, this does not mean that these treatments are foolproof. Even with the right care, a child may suffer lifelong health complications that, had the doctor followed the standard of care, could have been prevented.

My Child Was Injured at Birth—What are My Family’s Legal Options?

Welcoming the birth of a new child should always be a joyous occasion. If a health care provider’s or hospital’s negligence caused your child to suffer short-term, long-lasting, or irreversible harm, you may have legal standing to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.

When filing a birth injury claim, you must be able to demonstrate that:

  1. The at-fault party owed you and your child a duty of care.
  2. The at-fault party breached or otherwise failed to uphold their duty of care.
  3. You or your child suffered an injury as a result of that breach.
  4. You suffered verifiable damages.

Our Albuquerque birth injury lawyers regularly partner with medical experts to establish what the standard of care should have been in a given case. The standard or duty of care is what another doctor would have done if placed in a similar situation under similar circumstances.

It is then our job to prove how a health care provider’s actions fell outside of this standard.

Fighting for the compensation and justice that your child is rightfully owed is a significant undertaking. Most birth injury cases rely on a deep understanding of current best practices in medicine as well as how the health care system functions.

Doctors and hospitals are often quick to blame poor outcomes on the unpredictable nature of modern-day medicine and treatment options. And while it is true that not every negative health outcome is the result of poor care or treatment, it is true that medical professionals will often hide behind these excuses rather than take responsibility for their actions.

Can My Family Afford To Work With a Medical Malpractice Attorney?

You haven’t even had time to adjust to life as new parents or to celebrate the birth of your newest child, and the medical bills are already piling up. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t have to worry about right now, it’s how you will afford to stand up for your child.

At Buckingham & Vega Law Firm, we proudly take many cases on a contingency fee basis. We don’t collect any legal fees unless we win your case for you. And your first meeting to learn more about your legal options is always free.

If your child suffered mild, moderate, or severe oxygen deprivation at birth, please contact us as soon as possible. We’ll match you with one of our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys for a completely free case evaluation.

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