Many want to know about birth asphyxia and how it is caused. Birth asphyxia is the name for a serious medical condition that occurs when a newborn does not receive adequate oxygen before, during, or just after birth. A lack of oxygen causes damage to most of an infant’s organs, including the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain. Brain damage is the most prominent concern because it is less likely to completely heal than other affected organs.
Brain damage from birth asphyxia can result in:
- Physical impairments
- Intellectual impairments
- Developmental delays
These conditions are lifelong and typically require constant medical care.
What Causes Birth Asphyxia
According to the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital, the leading causes of birth asphyxia are divided into two major categories: before and during childbirth and immediately after childbirth.
The most common causes of birth asphyxia before and during birth include:
- Low blood pressure in the mother
- Low oxygen levels in the mother’s blood from heart or respiratory problems
- Inadequate oxygen levels caused by anesthesia
- Placental abruption (premature separation of the placenta from the uterus)
- Compression of the umbilical cord that decreases blood flow and reduces oxygen levels
- Inadequate relaxation of the uterus during labor that prohibits oxygen circulation to the placenta
- Poor placenta function due to high blood pressure or pregnancies that exceed 42 weeks
The most common causes of birth asphyxia just after birth are:
- Severe anemia (low blood cell count) that reduces the oxygen-carrying ability of the blood
- Respiratory problems that limit proper oxygen intake
- Low blood pressure
- Heart or lung disease
Common Warning Signs and Symptoms of Birth Asphyxia
Labor and delivery room medical professionals should be on the lookout for these common warning signs of birth asphyxia before birth:
- Abnormal fetal heart rate or rhythm
- An increased acid level in baby’s blood
At birth, symptoms of the condition may include:
- Bluish or pale skin color
- Low heart rate
- Weak muscle tone and reflexes
- Weak cry
- Gasping or weak breathing
- Difficulty breathing caused by meconium (first bowel movement passed by the baby) in the amniotic fluid that blocks airways
Diagnosis of Birth Asphyxia
Some cases of birth asphyxia are easier to diagnose than others, depending on the severity of the oxygen deprivation.
The following tests are used to diagnose birth asphyxia:
- A failing or low Apgar score of zero to three for longer than five minutes. The Apgar test is given just after birth to assess a newborn’s color, reflexes, muscle tone, respiration, and heartbeat.
- Elevated levels of acid in the arterial blood of the umbilical cord
- Poor muscle tone, coma, seizures, and other neurological problems
- Respiratory distress, low blood pressure, or poor blood flow to the kidneys or intestines
Treatment for Birth Asphyxia
Brain damage can happen in a matter of seconds. Doctors and medical professionals must act quickly to avoid or minimize the damaging effects of decreased oxygen to a newborn.
Treatment for birth asphyxia may include:
- Respiration or ventilation aid
- Medications to increase a newborn’s low blood pressure
- Other neonatal medications, therapies, and procedures based on the severity of the condition and tolerance for treatment
Preventing Birth Asphyxia
Birth asphyxia can cause low oxygen levels that decrease a baby’s heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow out of the heart. While each case is different, some birth asphyxia can be prevented with proper care, including:
- Giving the mother extra oxygen before and during delivery
- Monitoring fetal heart rate and oxygen levels for signs of distress
- Performing an emergency Cesarean section if fetal distress occurs
- Giving proper prenatal exams, including blood pressure levels
- Performing ultrasounds to check the placenta and umbilical cord
Medical Negligence and Birth Asphyxia
Medical providers are bound by a duty of care to preserve the health of the mother and baby. When a medical professional does not meet this basic standard of care, birth injuries occur.
Some birth injuries are preventable, including the following:
- Delivery is delayed
- Failure to check the mother or baby’s heart rate
- Incorrect use of forceps or vacuum
- Improper anesthesia
- Failure to perform an emergency C-section
Brain Damage Lawsuits
Brain damage is a heartbreaking result of birth asphyxia. If your baby suffered from this condition due to a preventable birth injury, you could be entitled to compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses. An incompetent or unscrupulous medical professional should be held responsible for your baby’s brain damage.
A birth injury lawyer is familiar with birth asphyxia and how it is caused, and can file a brain damage lawsuit on your behalf to recover your rightful compensation. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group for a free consultation with a birth injury lawyer in your state. Please do not delay because each state has its own statute of limitations. Call 1-800-222-9529 to connect with a birth injury lawyer in your state.