Orange County Hypoxia and Asphyxia Birth Injury Attorneys
Sadly, in many cases a medical error or negligence is the cause of hypoxia or asphyxia, two birth injuries caused by a lack of oxygen which can severe, catastrophic, or even fatal consequences. If your baby suffers from compromised health or development due to oxygen deprivation, you may have grounds to pursue significant compensation through a birth injury lawsuit.
Perinatal Hypoxia and Perinatal Asphyxia
Hypoxia and asphyxia are two terms which refer to reduced oxygen flow to a fetus or infant or total oxygen deprivation. Hypoxia refers to low or inadequate levels of oxygen reaching the body’s tissues as a result of poor oxygen supply or poor utilization of oxygen by the body. Asphyxia is the result of an obstruction or injury to the passages that deliver air and oxygen to the body. To clarify, if asphyxia causes an inability to take in adequate oxygen, hypoxia may result.
When hypoxia or asphyxia affects an unborn or very young baby, it may be the result of a preventable birth injury or medical negligence. Many people may think of a birth injury as an injury suffered by an infant during the delivery process. This is true, but the term birth injury is also used to describe any “perinatal” injury, which means any injury which occurs in the crucial moments before a baby is born, during the delivery, or shortly after the delivery. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “The perinatal period commences at 22 completed weeks (154 days) of gestation and ends seven completed days after birth.”
Causes of Hypoxia and Asphyxia Birth Injuries
Birth asphyxia is referred to in the medical community as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE. According to the nonprofit group Hope for HIE, roughly two to three in every 1,000 full-term births result in HIE.
When classified as a birth injury, asphyxia may be caused by a number of factors, many of which are preventable. These include:
- Prolapsed umbilical cord: When the cord travels ahead of the baby through the birth canal
- Nuchal umbilical cord: When the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck.
- Umbilical cord compression: Often a result of a cord prolapse, compression of the umbilical cord may deprive a baby of oxygen
- Meconium aspiration: When the baby defecates meconium (the first bowel movement) and inhales it before, during, or immediately after birth
- Placental insufficiency
- Placental abruption
- Delivery trauma
- Very frequent uterine contractions
- Breech presentation
- Maternal conditions such as preeclampsia or infection, which have been improperly managed
- Improper fetal monitoring
- Low amniotic fluid
- Premature birth
- Premature rupture of membranes: Breaking the mother’s water too soon
- Prolonged labor
- Failure to conduct or delay in conducting an emergency C-section
Not only are most cases of HIE preventable, in many cases it may be possible to reduce the damage an infant suffers due to HIE with prompt hypothermia treatment, which cools the body down and slows the cascade of brain cell death. Not only does the death of brain cells cause permanent and often catastrophic injuries, but secondary injuries may occur when normal blood flow resumes to the brain, releasing toxins from the dead or damaged cells.
Consequences of Hypoxia and Asphyxia
When a baby is deprived of oxygen, especially for an extended period of time, the consequences can be severe, permanent, and even fatal. Consequences of hypoxia or asphyxia birth injury include:
- Organ death
- Low muscle tone
- Newborn resuscitation
- Low APGAR scores
- Difficulty feeding
- Impaired brain stem function and reflexes
- Inability to speak
- Mental retardation
- Developmental delays
- Vegetative state
- Inability to eat, dependence on feeding tubes
- Dependence on ventilators or breathing tubes
Roughly 15% to 20% of all infants affected by HIE will not survive past newborn. Of those who do survive, up to one-quarter of those children will suffer severe or even catastrophic neurological damage.
Birth Injury Lawsuit Consultations
The moments immediately surrounding birth are crucial to the health and development of a baby, and any oversight, error, or negligence on the part of a medical provider can have devastating effects. If you believe that medical malpractice or negligence led to your child’s birth injuries from hypoxia or asphyxia, we encourage you to contact our experienced and compassionate attorneys for a free and confidential legal consultation. While it is not possible for us to restore your child’s health or ease your family’s suffering, we can help you hold all negligent parties accountable. We can also help you recover financial compensation which may help you provide the very best care for your child and a more secure future for your family.