When a child is being born, it’s critically important for medical staff to accurately document umbilical cord blood gases because that information is used to get a clear understanding of the acid-based balance of the baby. This data is acquired at the moment the umbilical cord is clamped. There is a continuous and accelerating change in the acid-base because of gas exchange and placental metabolism as long as the umbilical cord blood is in continuity with the placenta. Changes in the pH of the umbilical changes rapidly when it’s clamped.

Methods used for sampling umbilical cord blood gases have been used for decades to assess fetal hypoxic stress. This is a practice that’s still used today because it offers critical information about the health of a newborn baby. It doesn’t just provide information about the current health of the baby, it provides data about the baby’s health status in the womb, upon birth and potentially in the future. It’s recommended that this data be obtained for high risk pregnancies. Subsequently, the analysis and interpretation of umbilical cord blood gases is something that occurs on a routine basis.

Ongoing statistical data provided by experts in the medical community, and reports issued by the National Institute of Health, all confirm that it only takes 60 seconds from delivery for the umbilical pH to change after it’s clamped. The pH changes significantly over time, which is similar to the changes that occur in blood samples that are taken from the surface of placental vessels. However, blood samples are less predictable than placental samples.

To ensure the data collected is accurate, it’s important to know if the samples were taken from cord blood that was isolated or after placental metabolism had occurred. The reason why this is important is because not having that data can cause the results to be misinterpreted. It’s important to know how much time passed before the umbilical cord blood gases were sampled.

When a sample of blood gas is obtained from a newborn baby right after delivery, there is an expectation of acidosis in the event of an umbilical cord obstruction. Because of the fact that umbilical blood flow is often restricted prior to birth, there will likely be an accelerated difference between venous and umbilical arterial blood gas values. Umbilical venous blood should generally have a lower partial carbon dioxide since fetal carbon dioxides are obtained from umbilical arterial blood that’s found in the placenta.

The acquisition of blood gas samples are for many purposes, including the analysis of partial pressure of oxygen. Among the information assessed and calculated is bicarbonate, oxygen saturation and base excess. There are some known factors that must be considered, such as the fact that blood obtained form the umbilical arteries will have a lower pH than blood from the umbilical vein. Other known factors are that blood from the umbilical arteries will have a higher PCO2 than blood from the umbilical vein. Additionally, blood in the umbilical arteries will have a lower PO2 than blood from the umbilical vein.

The purpose for such extensive analysis and assessment of umbilical cord blood gas is because it’s a critical part of the process when determining why fetal oxygen deprivation occurred. The process of determining why birth asphyxiation or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) occurred is extensive and requires a significant amount of investigation. The details concerning when and how data was obtained is critical because it makes a difference in how that information will be interpreted.

Just as a baby relies on the mother for sustenance, it relies on the mother for oxygen while in the womb. How a baby breathes upon birth is not how it breathes while in the womb. This occurs through the exchange of gas in the placenta, which is what connects the fetus to the wall of the mother’s uterine wall for nutrients. These nutrients are then exchanged just as the gas is exchanged through the mother’s oxygenated blood. It’s also important to know that the oxygenated blood is obtained from the vein in the umbilical cord. The umbilical artery blood is what’s used to determine if a fetus has experienced oxygen deprivation. This is a condition known as a hypoxic ischemic or anoxic event.

There are many reasons why a fetus can experience hypoxia or asphyxia. In fact, it’s possible for these problems to occur without impacting umbilical cord blood gases. Sometimes issues exist because the baby had poor circulation just before delivery. However, there could be more concerning reasons, such as the baby experiencing a head injury during the delivery process.

There’s no doubt that investigating the reasons why birth asphyxia occurs is complex and requires due diligence. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of negligence related to umbilical cord blood gases during the birth of a child, contact Zayed Law Offices for a consultation.