An inadequate supply of oxygen to the baby during labor poses a significant risk for brain damage and death. Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) occurs when the baby’s brain does not receive an adequate flow of oxygen and can cause cerebral palsy, developmental problems, learning disabilities, impaired hearing, partial or total blindness, epilepsy, and even death. This can also occur during pregnancy but is particularly dangerous at the time of delivery.
Hypoxia (reduced oxygen) occurs when the newborn’s brain lacks oxygen. Anoxia is a more severe birth injury – it occurs when the baby’s brain receives no oxygen for a period of time, which can cause lifelong disability or even death. Either anoxia or hypoxia can be caused by:
• Premature separation of the placenta (placental abruption).
• Compression or entanglement of the umbilical cord, compromising the flow of blood and oxygen from the mother.
• The inability of the baby to breathe independently after birth, which can lead to serious brain damage or even death if not addressed shortly after delivery.
• Contractions that are too strong, too frequent, or too long, often from the improper use of Pitocin by the obstetrical team.
Babies born in an anoxic state must receive immediate medical attention to address their oxygen deficiency.
An electronic fetal monitor (EFM) lets doctors and nurses take immediate action to address signs of hypoxia and anoxia, but when fetal monitoring data strips (also called FHR tracings) are misread or ignored, or when a medical professional has not been adequately trained to read them, such errors can result in damage to the baby’s brain or death.
With prompt medical treatment, children can recover from anoxia, but some babies never make a full recovery. After four minutes without oxygen, brain cells begin to die, resulting in permanent brain damage. The more time a baby goes without oxygen, the more advanced symptoms become, and the higher the chance of suffering long-term effects. If untreated, anoxia can cause one or more serious disorders, including cerebral palsy or, in the worst cases, the death of the child.
Diminished oxygen supply can lead to severe impairment of cognitive skills and physical functions. Children who suffer oxygen deprivation during birth may exhibit common signs of brain damage. While some symptoms may not be observable immediately, infants who suffer brain damage at birth may experience deficiencies later in life involving:
• Gross motor skills such as walking, running, standing still, sitting, and other larger actions and movement.
• Fine motor skills that require more precise control like eating, writing, grasping small objects, getting dressed, and other activities.
• Ability to communicate, including talking in a clear voice, using inflection while speaking, and other verbal skills.
Some children who suffer brain damage can recover partially or entirely through intensive treatment programs, including physical and occupational therapy. Unfortunately, that is not the case for all children, and some must live with conditions that can only be managed but not cured.
Consult with a compassionate and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney
If your child has a severe disorder resulting from an injury at birth, his or her condition may be due to the negligence of a medical professional. The choice of a birth injury law firm to represent your family may be the most significant decision you make.
At the Michigan medical malpractice law firm of Sommers Schwartz, we proudly represent families who have fallen victim to doctors’ errors, misdiagnoses, and wrongful acts. Our team of dedicated personal injury lawyers is well known and respected for our accomplishments in medical malpractice lawsuits in Michigan and across the United States. We have earned an unparalleled reputation for professionalism, knowledge, and skill, and we frequently present to lawyers and even doctors at medical-legal conferences nationwide.
To schedule a free consultation with an attorney at Sommers Schwartz to determine your right to compensation for a birth injury, call 800-783-0989.