A fetal hypoxia diagnosis can have effects that last a lifetime. Fetal hypoxia can take place during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. When a fetus does not get enough oxygen, the results can include cerebral palsy, retinopathy, chronic lung disease, hearing loss, cardiac problems, and death during the weeks before or after delivery.
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Warning Signs That a Pregnant Woman Might Be Hypoxic
The obstetric team should take great care in monitoring pregnant women who have an increased risk of hypoxia due to the mother:
- Living at a high altitude and receiving less oxygen
- Having a pre-existing cardiovascular disease like pulmonary hypertension, heart failure, or cyanotic heart disease
- Having anemia
- Having a blood disorder, like sickle cell anemia
- Having an infection, like an acute respiratory infection
- Having chronic inflammation
These conditions can limit the mother’s oxygen intake and her ability to deliver sufficient oxygen to the fetus. It might be necessary to administer oxygen to the mother or take other measures to increase the delivery of oxygen to the fetus.
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Pre-Eclampsia and Fetal Hypoxia
If the mother develops pre-eclampsia during the pregnancy, medical personnel must take immediate measures to save the mother’s life and to avoid harm to the fetus. If it is severe, the fetus could sustain significant harm from a lack of oxygen. If pre-eclampsia occurs before 33 weeks of gestation, there is a high likelihood of fetal mortality and morbidity. Both the mother and baby have a higher than average risk of developing premature cardiovascular disease in the future.
How Fetal Hypoxia Affects the Development of a Fetus
In order to survive, a fetus that is not getting enough oxygen will shift its energy to life support functions, sacrificing the development of other organs and body systems. The blood supply to the brain, heart, and upper body will increase. As a result, the blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and legs will decrease, adversely impacting the development of those areas.
If the insufficient oxygen worsens or continues, eventually the fetus will sustain damage to the heart and brain. At that point, the fetus can die if not delivered within a matter of days. Even if delivered in time to save its life, the baby can experience lifelong impairments from the damage the hypoxia caused. Also, these babies have a higher risk of developing hypertension later in life.
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Treating Fetal Hypoxia
According to Mayo Clinic, the obstetrician should perform a biophysical profile to assess the health of the fetus. If the biophysical profile reveals abnormalities or the mother or pregnancy has risk factors for hypoxia or other complications, the doctor should continue to monitor the mother and fetus closely. Sometimes it is necessary to deliver the baby early or immediately.
A fetal biophysical profile consists of:
- A nonstress test to monitor the fetal heart rate and
- A fetal ultrasound to check the baby’s breathing, heart rate, amniotic fluid level, and muscle tone
Fetal Hypoxia During Labor and Delivery
The baby can receive insufficient oxygen during labor or delivery because of several factors, which can include:
- The labor goes on for an unusually long time.
- The contractions are too strong or too close together.
- The baby is in a breech position or some other non-optimal presentation when going through the birth canal.
- The baby is too large for vaginal delivery.
- The mother is in medical distress.
- The pregnancy lasts well beyond the weeks of a typical pregnancy.
The medical personnel has several options for dealing with these situations, depending on the details of the individual case. Failure to monitor or respond promptly to problems during labor and delivery can cause permanent harm to the baby from a lack of oxygen.
What to Do About Fetal Hypoxia
Fetal hypoxia can impact a person’s development, cognitive abilities, and life path. Damage to the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract can be permanent and debilitating.
Your right to recover damages will depend on your state’s laws about birth injuries. Some states have programs with strict rules that govern these situations. These programs often have short deadlines for taking action against the party whose carelessness caused or contributed to the harm your baby suffered. If you miss the deadline or any of the other requirements, you could lose the right to go after money damages.
Depending on your state and the facts of your case, you might be able to recover compensation for the medical expenses, ongoing therapies and interventions, life care, and disability. These cases are sophisticated litigation. You should work with someone who has experience navigating birth injury cases.
Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529
The doctors and hospitals will have teams of lawyers working to insulate them from liability for their actions. You do not have to tackle the healthcare professionals and their lawyers by yourself.