Oxygen is crucial for the maintenance of life, and never is this truer than right before, during and after the birth of a baby. When an infant’s bodily tissues are deprived of oxygen for any reason at this pivotal transition time, hypoxia occurs. Understanding its definition and causes can help you to determine if your baby’s injuries stemmed from a failure in your birth team’s treatment.
Common Causes of Oxygen Deficiency in Infants
There are several reasons why an infant may be deprived of oxygen before, during or after birth. They include the following:
- Maternal anemia.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Asphyxia during birth.
- Difficulties with fetal monitoring.
In addition, perinatal hypoxia can result from problems with the umbilical cord, including cord prolapse or collapse or placental abruption, a condition that happens when the placenta separates from the uterus during pregnancy. All of these conditions should be detected and diagnosed by the doctor during pregnancy. As long as they are spotted early, complications such as the need for an emergency Cesarean section and birth complications can generally be avoided.
Perinatal Hypoxia’s Long-term Effects
The consequences of perinatal hypoxia can last a lifetime. Many children develop one or more serious injuries that directly stem from oxygen deprivation. They include the following:
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).
- Brain injuries related to birth asphyxia.
- Severe seizures.
- Cerebral palsy.
- Cognitive delays.
- Behavioral problems.
In many cases, brain injuries in infants manifest within 48 hours of birth. If they are treated immediately, the severity of their after-effects can frequently be minimized.
Treating Perinatal Hypoxia
Ironically, one of the most effective ways to reduce the devastating effects of oxygen deprivation is through another sort of deprivation: hypothermal or cooling therapy. Especially if it is initiated within six hours of birth, this intervention can be very effective in reducing the rates of mortality and neurological disorders by half. The treatment involves applying ice blankets or a special ice cap to the baby’s body and head. Taking these actions leads to a slow-down of the chain of post-hypoxia cellular responses that can cause seizures and brain damage when left unchecked. It also gives the medical team time to administer additional oxygen therapy to the infant, thus helping to reverse the damage done.
Doctors should be on the lookout for signs indicating that an infant is a good candidate for neonatal therapeutic hypothermia treatment. They include the following:
- Premature birth.
- Heart abnormalities.
- Maternal oxygen deficiency before birth.
- Delayed C-section.
- Fetal anemia.
- Umbilical cord complications.
- Maternal preeclampsia.
- Other difficulties during delivery.
Although not every situation in which these conditions occur necessitates this type of therapy, it is important that a medical team remains vigilant of every symptom displayed by the infant to ensure that therapies are initiated as soon as they are indicated.
Perinatal hypoxia can lead to devastating and permanent brain injuries, disabilities and even death. Its long-term effects can require that a child receive extensive education and special care. In some cases, the family might need to dedicate their lives to meeting the needs of the affected baby.
There are instances when perinatal hypoxia is unavoidable and happens in spite of the best efforts of the medical team. However, there are other cases when this set of events could have been prevented altogether. If you believe that your baby’s perinatal hypoxia may have been caused by the actions or failure to act of your medical team, you don’t have a moment to lose. Contact a birth injury law firm today for a no-cost evaluation of your personal situation to learn if you are entitled to financial compensation. Although money can never turn back the hands of time or make the effects of your child’s birth injury disappear, it can furnish you with the resources you need to provide your child with the medical and educational care they deserve.