A report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimated that four out of every 100 children suffer some degree of oxygen deprivation at birth. Some other studies state that the number is as high as 23 out of every 100. While it is likely that many children experience a brief period of umbilical cord compression or similar issues, the effects do not have any apparent lasting damage.
Without a physical indication, such as a cord wrapped around the baby’s neck or a prolapsed cord, or a significant change in the baby’s vital signs, it may be difficult to know that a child suffered birth asphyxia. Most doctors merely become aware that the baby might not be getting enough air when:
- The baby’s vital signs change dramatically, often with a quick heart rate.
- The baby does not breathe on its own after delivery and requires resuscitation.
- The baby has low Apgar scores at one minute or five minutes after birth.
- The baby shows other signs of severe oxygen deprivation, such as seizures and organ dysfunction.
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Can Babies Recover from a Lack of Oxygen at Birth?
That depends on how long they were without breathing or getting air. If the lack of oxygen is mild to moderate, it’s possible for the baby to make a full or partial recovery. This means that they would live normal lives without any fear of cognitive or neurological impairment.
But if they suffered asphyxia for a relatively long time, that lack of oxygen can lead to permanent brain damage. And this brain injury can affect other parts of the body including the lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, and stomach among others.
If caught early, medical professionals typically try to cool the infant’s body. This is known as therapeutic hypothermia, and it has been shown to help somewhat, particularly in babies that were carried to term or near term (1-4 weeks early).
Infants who are born five or more weeks early won’t benefit from therapeutic hypothermia. Also, this is standard treatment protocol in infants with moderate to severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which often occurs after an infant doesn’t get adequate oxygen for a relatively long period.
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How Long does It Take for a Baby to Get Brain Damage from a Lack of Oxygen?
10 minutes. That’s how long it takes for a baby to go from being potentially healthy to suffering brain damage and living with the outcome for the rest of his/her life. Within the first minute, brain cells start dying from the lack of oxygen. But if there’s an intervention and oxygen is restored, the child can survive and live a healthy life.
If there’s no oxygen supply for 3-5 minutes, the child is likely to begin to experience brain damage. If that continues for another five minutes, making a total of 10+ minutes, the chances of permanent brain damage become really significant and recovery will be slim, but possible.
If this continues to the 15-minute mark, the child is likely to suffer irreversible and permanent brain damage, as well, as imminent death. Nobody, whether a newborn or an adult, should ever suffer this.
Even though there are specific “milestones” after which brain damage becomes more likely, the reality is that any form of oxygen deprivation can harm your child and lead to a lifetime of health problems.
Many Babies Experience Brain Damage as a Result of Oxygen Deprivation
Babies who experience oxygen deprivation are more likely to suffer brain damage if there’s no intervention. There have been many studies that focus on hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE. This is one of the most common brain injuries suffered by newborns, leading to many developmental delays, physical disabilities, and other challenges.
According to research published in the medical journal, Newborn and Infant Nursing Reviews, HIE occurs between 1.5 and 2.5 surviving babies born in developed nations, including the United States. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy occurs just before, during, or immediately after delivery. It may occur because of any reason that prevents the baby’s brain from receiving a constant flow of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood, including:
- Hypoxia, when there is a shortage of oxygen in the blood
- Anoxia, when the brain receives no oxygen and nutrients
- Ischemic events, such as stroke
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Complications Resulting from a Deprivation of Oxygen at Birth
When considering how common oxygen deprivation is at birth, it is also important to note the effects this situation can have on children who experience it.
While many children may experience only brief asphyxia and have no apparent lasting effects, those with moderate or severe oxygen deprivation injuries can have significant delays and disabilities, as well as related medical conditions. This may include:
- Developmental delays and disabilities
- Motor disabilities including cerebral palsy
- Learning disabilities
- Behavioral concerns
- Low vision
- Hearing loss
- Organ damage
If your child experienced oxygen deprivation and has any of these complications or medical conditions, your family may have a valid medical malpractice claim against the negligent doctor, hospital, or another party. This can be crucial to pay for the care and therapy your child needs.
Building a Medical Malpractice Case Based on Oxygen Deprivation
If you believe your child experienced oxygen deprivation, suffered HIE, or has complications or medical conditions related to birth asphyxia, you should discuss it with a law firm that handles medical malpractice cases in your state. An oxygen deprivation birth injury attorney will help you understand your rights, assign liability, and gather evidence for your case, as well as navigate the process for you based on a contingency fee arrangement. You will not need to pay anything out of pocket for legal representation in most cases.
By working with an attorney in your state, you can ensure your case adheres to the state’s unique statutes that apply in birth injury cases. This may include the state’s timeline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit and its rules related to expert medical testimony.
Some states require your lawyer to consult with an expert before filing a civil suit, some require a signed affidavit from an expert to accompany your filing, and others require the expert to testify at trial. If your attorney can build a case to hold the hospital or doctor liable, you may recover damages that include:
- Current and future medical care and support
- Ongoing care costs for your child
- Missed work because of your child’s injuries and needs
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to their injury and diagnosis
- Pain and suffering damages
- Other non-economic losses
Discuss Your Child’s Birth Injury Diagnosis with Our Team Today for Free
You can speak with a team member from the Birth Injury Lawyers Group about your child’s birth injury and any related complications or medical conditions today at no cost to you. We will evaluate your legal case against the doctor or hospital and determine if we believe you are eligible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
You can get help today with your legal case. Contact us today to learn about your legal options based on the specific details of your child’s case.