The symptoms of oxygen deprivation in a newborn can vary depending on what caused the asphyxia and how severe it was. Some babies who experience deprivation of oxygen during labor or delivery may require resuscitation following birth, meaning they are born not breathing, taking only a few breaths each minute, or with extremely labored breathing.
When oxygen deprivation lasts more than a few seconds, the baby’s vital signs will usually show a problem. During labor, signs of fetal distress include a significant drop in the baby’s heart rate or an extremely low heart rate.
While there may be many reasons for low Apgar scores during the baby’s one-minute and five-minute assessments, this is also an indicator that something may have gone wrong during labor and delivery. The child requires close monitoring and additional testing.
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Low Apgar Assessment Scores Indicate a Need for Close Observation
If there were no apparent signs of oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery, the first indication the medical care team may have of a problem with a newborn is a low Apgar score at one minute after birth. The one-minute assessment evaluates the child’s ability to tolerate the delivery process and screens:
- The baby’s coloring, which is often blue, grey, or purple following oxygen deprivation
- Pulse rate, which could be low or irregular
- Reflexes, which are often absent or weak if a child experienced oxygen deprivation
- Muscle tone and strength
- Breathing rate and ease of breathing, which may be disrupted in children who experienced oxygen deprivation
Because a lack of oxygen can affect so many of these factors, babies who experienced moderate or severe oxygen deprivation often have low Apgar scores at one minute. Without proper treatment, their five-minute scores will remain low also.
In most cases, healthy newborns have an Apgar score of between seven and ten at one minute after birth. Ten is the top score, but very few newborns meet all of the criteria for this score. Babies who experienced oxygen deprivation may receive a six or below score, indicating a complication during delivery.
While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Academy of Pediatrics encourage the use of expanded Apgar testing to understand the child’s possible health concerns better, they warn that an Apgar score alone cannot prove or disprove oxygen deprivation. However, a low score should prompt the medical care team to look into what happened and closely observe the baby for additional signs.
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Some Babies Display Oxygen Deprivation Symptoms Early
While symptoms of oxygen deprivation in a newborn are not always clear-cut, it may be possible to determine if a baby suffered a significant brain injury during labor and delivery. Some signs of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), the brain’s damage caused by severe oxygen deprivation, may be apparent immediately or in the first hours of life in some children. This could include:
- Absent or weak reflexes
- Floppy muscle tone or stiff, spastic muscles
- Weak or absent crying
- Feeding concerns
Organ dysfunction or failure, often of the kidneys, liver, heart, or lungs, is also a common effect of the oxygen deprivation that may be apparent in the initial days of a baby’s life. As the child grows, they may miss developmental milestones or exhibit other symptoms of conditions related to oxygen deprivation. This could include cerebral palsy, low vision, hearing loss, behavioral disorders, learning delays, and more.
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Building a Case Based on Oxygen Deprivation at Birth in Your Newborn
If your baby experienced symptoms of oxygen deprivation following the birth or received a related diagnosis, you may have a legal case against the doctor or hospital who caused or failed to prevent their birth injuries. A diagnosis of epilepsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or cerebral palsy could allow you to hold the doctor or another medical practitioner legally responsible and recover compensation for your child’s treatment and care.
You will need to work with an attorney in your state familiar with oxygen deprivation birth injury claims. There are specific details about these cases and specific state laws that your birth injury attorney will need to understand to develop a strong case and hold the liable parties accountable.
Most medical malpractice law firms handle birth injury cases based on a contingent fee. They fund your claim and only recover their fees if they secure compensation for you, either through negotiating a settlement or winning your case in court. If you do not receive compensation, your lawyer will not receive their fees.
These cases often rely on a medical expert witness who can verify that medical negligence occurred, explain your child’s condition and prognosis, and help you to understand your child’s injuries better. Your lawyer will identify this medical expert and enlist their help with your case.
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Contact Our Office if Your Newborn Exhibited Oxygen Deprivation Symptoms and Suffered Injuries
At the Birth Injury Lawyers Group, your family can get help today. From anywhere in the United States, you can reach a team member by calling (800) 222-9529. We provide complimentary case reviews for families.
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