Hypoxia is a medical term describing the lack of oxygen to some part of the body. During labor and delivery, the oxygen supply to a newborn’s brain can be interrupted, resulting in Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). If the oxygen supply is cut off completely, doctors call this condition anoxia, an extreme form of hypoxia.
Because many of the most severe long-term birth injuries involve inadequate oxygen supply to a newborn’s brain, the moments leading up to and immediately after birth are crucial to healthy neurological development.
Risk factors and causes of hypoxia
HIE is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, such as when:
• Blood flow from mom to infant is interrupted
• Maternal blood flow is normal, but the pathway to the infant’s brain is compromised
• Maternal blood blow to the infant’s brain is normal, but the level of oxygen in the blood is insufficient
Often, hypoxia stems from an especially difficult labor, but certain risk factors like infection, congenital heart disease, shoulder dystocia, and injury to the umbilical cord increase the likelihood of a brain injury. The child then may suffer from cerebral palsy (CP), developmental problems, learning disabilities, impaired hearing, partial or total blindness, epilepsy, and even death.
Mothers with high-risk pregnancies – based on factors including advanced maternal age, gestational diabetes, obesity, and preeclampsia – should be monitored carefully during pregnancy and labor and delivery to prevent HIE and the possibility of brain damage and other birth trauma.
Symptoms of oxygen deprivation
Not all hypoxia cases are alike. Some infants may be born with observable symptoms, such as labored or difficult breathing. If a newborn presents with these symptoms, the child may be in either an anoxic or hypoxic state and require immediate medical intervention. Ensuring prompt medical attention for hypoxic babies is essential – left untreated, hypoxia can cause cerebral palsy (CP) or other severe disorders.
Some babies who suffer oxygen deprivation during birth may appear to breathe normally, yet an injury might still have occurred. Even if a newborn is breathing normally, medical professionals should be able to determine that the infant nevertheless suffered from a lack of oxygen.
Symptoms of a prior hypoxic state include jerky and awkward movements, weakness, and a potential lack of consciousness. If the hypoxia goes untreated, a baby can develop CP or other serious conditions.
Treatment of HIE and hypoxic brain injury
When oxygen deprivation is detected in an infant, brain damage can be minimized by administering hypothermia therapy, also known as therapeutic hypothermia, cooling therapy, or neonatal cooling. This process cools the child’s brain to a target temperature of 91 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit using either a cooling cap or cooling the entire body.
Time is of the essence when treating hypoxia. Optimally, hypothermia therapy should begin within six hours of birth and continue for 72 hours. The reduced temperature prevents a brain injury from progressing
Consult with a recognized and respected Michigan birth injury law firm
If your child suffered HIE and irreversible brain damage during the labor or delivery process, it might have been prevented with proper medical care. Such birth injuries can be the basis for a successful medical malpractice lawsuit.
When you choose Sommers Schwartz to handle your birth injury claim, you can be sure your child and your case are in the best of hands. At our Michigan-based medical malpractice law office, we have a proud history of representing families in lawsuits involving preventable birth injuries, including claims of oxygen-deprivation during labor. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call 800-783-0989 today.