When you are expecting a baby, you put your life and your child’s life in your doctor’s hands. You trust them to monitor your pregnancy and make decisions to ensure your baby is born healthy. But sometimes, medical professionals make mistakes, and something goes wrong.
This can cause a type of brain damage known as birth asphyxia, birth hypoxia, or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, HIE, which can leave your child with a permanent disability that requires expensive treatment and continuous care.
If your child developed the birth injury HIE due to a medical doctor’s mistake, error, or negligence, you might be entitled to compensation through a birth injury lawsuit. Contact the Chicago birth injury attorneys at Zayed Law Offices today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
What is Birth Hypoxia?
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 birth hypoxia, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or simply HIE. It is also sometimes referred to as birth asphyxia.
HIE is a brain injury and sometimes a preventable birth injury. It occurs when the infant’s brain experiences blood or oxygen deprivation either before birth, during the labor and delivery process, or after birth.
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 do not survive.
Symptoms of Birth Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
Signs of birth hypoxia may not be immediately noticeable but become more apparent as the baby develops. Sometimes, the symptoms are not identified until the child becomes school-aged.
Signs of HIE include:
- Decreased alertness and activity
- Lack of typical reflexes
- Abnormal movements or seizures
- Low or high muscle tone
- Breathing difficulties
Complications of Birth Hypoxia
Generally, the amount of time the infant’s brain is without oxygen or blood flow, the more severe the brain damage. Some who experience HIE may have no long-term consequences, while others may have mild to moderate symptoms. Some babies can have more severe disabilities, and many don’t survive.
HIE can cause complications, such as:
- Developmental delays
- Cognitive impairment
- Cerebral palsy
The primary reason why babies with HIE are unable to survive is organ failure. The way to prevent this birth injury 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.
Causes of Birth Hypoxia
HIE can occur at any time during pregnancy, the labor and delivery process, and after birth. Causes during pregnancy include:
- Blood flow issues to the placenta
- Preeclampsia (high blood pressure in the mother)
- Heart disease (in mother)
- Fetal lung development issues
- Congenital infections
- Fetal anemia
- Fetal distress
- Maternal substance use disorder
Causes during the labor and delivery process include:
- Bleeding from the placenta
- Low blood pressure (in mother)
- Umbilical cord problems
- Rupture in uterus
Causes during the postnatal period include:
- Severe lung or heart disease
- Severe infection
- Low blood pressure in the baby
- Respiratory failure
- Cardiac arrest
How Birth Hypoxia Can Occur
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 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 fetal distress, 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 your child’s birth injury resulted in permanent disability, contact our Chicago birth injury attorneys. You may be able to obtain compensation through a medical malpractice claim.
Grounds for a Birth Injury Lawsuit
Birth injury lawsuits are complicated. To be successful with a birth injury lawsuit, you have to establish that negligence on the part of a healthcare worker caused your child’s birth injury. Negligence occurs when medical professionals fail to uphold their duty of care toward patients by not providing the standard of care, resulting in your child’s birth injury.
Your birth injury lawyer can review the circumstances of your pregnancy, delivery, and postnatal period to determine if medical malpractice played a role in your child’s birth injury.
Contact Our Chicago Birth Injury Attorneys Today
If your child suffered a birth injury that resulted in birth hypoxia and you believe that medical malpractice may have played a role, contact the experienced birth injury attorneys at Zayed Law Offices. Our Chicago birth injury lawyers have extensive experience with Chicago medical malpractice and birth injury claims.
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 the Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyers at 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..