When there isn’t enough oxygen for an infant during delivery, it’s common for birth injuries to occur. There are a variety of names for this condition, but the terms used most often are hypoxia, anoxia and birth asphyxia. Even if a newborn has an insufficient amount of oxygen for a few seconds during delivery, it’s possible for brain damage to occur. In fact, an astonishing 75 percent of children born with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) do not survive.
The primary reason why babies with HIE are unable to survive is due to organ failure. The children that survive often have mental retardation, cerebral palsy or epilepsy. The way to prevent these outcomes is by ensuring methods used for labor and delivery align with sound practices. This includes the way in which the fetus is monitored throughout the duration of the pregnancy and until labor occurs. Despite the incidents of birth hypoxia and the varying reasons why it happens, there are methods used to prevent it from occurring.
It’s possible for hypoxia to occur at birth due to a delay in the delivery of the baby. Sometimes there’s a delay because the baby is in a breech position, which means it’s positioned to come out of the uterus bottom or foot first, instead of the desired position, which is head first. This is a situation that has the potential to be dangerous to both the unborn child and the mother. Unfortunately, it’s quite common for a child to be in the breech position.
Once it’s confirmed that a child is in fact breech, the obstetrician will have to make a determination about how to handle the problem. The most common solution is to perform a Cesarean section. The reason why this is the most common and preferred solution is because it reduces the risk of harm to the child and mother, which means there’s a lower chance of birth hypoxia. Why? Because delivering a breech baby significantly increases the chances of hypoxia.
Another reason why hypoxia occurs is because of a cord prolapse, which is when the umbilical cord precedes the child through the uterus. Having an abnormally long labor and a ruptured uterus are other issues that can result in birth hypoxia. The potential causes of birth hypoxia are wide ranging, but once it occurs, it often leads to other complications. For instance, children born with hypoxia are more likely to die as a result of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They are also at an increased risk of attention deficit disorders, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and various other motor conditions.
The methods used by medical professionals to deal with the issue of a baby not having a sufficient amount of oxygen at birth include treatments designed to cool the child’s head. This typically occurs in the intensive care unit where the body temperature of the baby can be managed and monitored to mitigate the neurological issues caused by having a lack of oxygen.
Hypothermia is used to decrease the body temperature of a child at risk of birth hypoxia. However, it’s imperative that this take place within six hours of birth in order to secure the benefits. In fact, it has been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that hypothermia is a proven method for boosting the survival rate of infants and decreasing their chances of injury. Studies have shown a significant reduction in death or disability when a hypothermia procedure is performed.
In the event that a baby is in fetal distress, it’s imperative that a medical professional take the necessary precautions and intervene appropriately based on an assessment of the situation. This could warrant performing a C-section right away. There is an understanding among obstetricians called the “30-minute rule,” whereby a Cesarean delivery is performed as soon as possible when there is a distressing situation, such as a uterine rupture or prolapsed cord.
Despite the 30-minute rule followed by medical professionals for many years, there was a contrarian opinion presented in 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). They basically stated that failure to perform a C-section within 30 minutes or shortly thereafter does not necessarily represent what would be considered substandard care. This position has been widely criticized by medical professionals because it lacks substance from a scientific standpoint.
If you have questions about birth hypoxia or just need to speak with someone about a situation that you or a loved one has experienced, contact or visit Zayed Law Offices. The lawyers at Zayed Law Offices are knowledgeable and committed to providing the highest level of client service. This can be especially comforting in the midst of difficult circumstances when you need to understand your rights.