Birth asphyxia (a lack of oxygen to the brain prior to or during birth)
can lead to serious brain damage. Oxygen deprivation can occur during
birth for many reasons. As such, it is crucial that medical personnel
identify and address the situation in as swift and capable a manner as
possible. Correct diagnosis and treatment may, in some cases, lessen the
negative effects of a lack of oxygen to the brain. If you suspect that
a medical mistake caused brain damage, attorney Chris Mellino welcomes you to
contact our Cleveland office for a free consultation. You may also download or
request attorney Chris’s free guide to
filing a malpractice claim in Ohio.
What Is Birth Asphyxia and What Causes It?
Asphyxia occurs when a baby’s brain or organs are deprived of oxygen
during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or after birth. Cells require oxygen
to function properly, and when there isn’t enough, waste products
(like acids) can build up in the cells, causing damage. This damage may
be temporary, long-term, and even permanent in some cases.
There are many potential causes to consider, including (but not limited
to) physiological abnormalities or traumatic birth and medical error.
Some of the factors in birth asphyxia may include:
- maternal blood (damage occurs if the mother’s bloodstream is on short
supply of oxygen before or during labor and delivery, which may be caused
by respiratory problems, possibly relating to anesthesia);
- premature placental separation from the uterus (this cuts off the baby’s
- delayed or difficult labor;
- umbilical cord issues during delivery (this includes compression of the
umbilical cord, which leads to decreased blood flow);
- untreated or serious maternal infection;
- untreated or serious fetal/neonatal infection;
- mother’s blood pressure (too low or too high);
- blocked or malformed airway on the baby;
- anemia (when the baby’s blood cells can’t carry sufficient
- heart or lung disease in the infant (this is a factor in neonatal asphyxia).
One children’s hospital has reported that asphyxia occurs in about
4 out of 1,000 full-term deliveries and may be more common in premature births.
Signs and Symptoms of Birth Asphyxia
Quickly identifying and addressing the medical or physical causes of a
lack of oxygen to the brain can have life-saving results. Medical providers,
such as an obstetrician and delivery room staff, should be alert to the
following signs that may indicate a lack of oxygen to the brain:
- abnormal heart rate/rhythm;
- acidosis (increased level of acids in blood;
- skin color (a bluish tint or pale skin can indicate trouble);
- weak muscle tone;
- poor reflexes;
- weak or no breathing;
- weak cry (sometimes indicated as “failure to cry”); and
- meconium (when the baby’s first stool is present in the amniotic
fluid and blocks airways).
For precise treatment, doctors and hospital staff have numerous tools and
tests that will assist in the diagnosis of asphyxia such as:
- tests that show severe acid levels in the umbilical cord blood (a pH level
less than 7.00 is an indicator of trouble); and
- APGAR scores of 0 to 3 for longer than 5 minutes (the APGAR test measures
pallor, heartbeat, reflexes, muscle tone, and respiration).
Treating Birth Asphyxia
Prompt treatment of birth asphyxia can minimize damage. Proper protocol
will depend on the baby’s age, health, and overall condition. Treatment
- providing the mother with supplemental oxygen during labor;
- performing an emergency cesarean or inducing labor;
- providing the baby with supplemental ventilation or medication; and
- extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (a technique that provides cardiac
and respiratory support to patients in severe distress).
Failure to provide proper medical attention can be disastrous in such a
scenario. Lack of oxygen to the brain may lead to brain injury or brain
damage relating to birth trauma. The March of Dimes reports that five
to 10 percent of cases of cerebral palsy are caused by birth injury, for
example, including lack of oxygen to the brain during birth.
Do You Have Questions for Birth Asphyxia Attorneys Chris Mellino?
If you have questions or concerns about birth asphyxia, attorney Chris
Mellino invites you to
contact our Cleveland office for a free consultation before Ohio’s statute
of limitations expires in your potential claim. You may also
download or request
Chris Mellino‘s free guide on how to file a claim.