Birth asphyxia is one of a number of tragic birth injuries that can occur during childbirth.
If your child suffered from birth asphyxia, you may have the legal grounds for a medical malpractice case. Contact us today by filling out our form or calling us directly. There may be limited time for you to act.
Asphyxia, more commonly known as “suffocation” is a condition arising when the body is deprived of oxygen. Asphyxia can cause unconsciousness or death.
If you’ve ever choked on a piece of food or taken a Jiu Jitsu class, you’re probably familiar with what asphyxiation feels like, and it’s certainly not pleasant.
In short increments, suffocation does not cause harm to the body – you’ve probably tried to see how long you can hold your breath. Even though most of us can’t hold our breath for very long, the body is capable of surviving several minutes without oxygen without any repercussions.
After five minutes or so, serious damage can begin to occur.
As in adults, asphyxiation can cause serious harm to an infant during childbirth. When this occurs, the brain and other organs do not get enough oxygen and nutrients. Without oxygen, the brain cannot function properly, and without proper blood flow, waste products (acids that are normally expelled) build up in cells and cause damage.
This can happen without anyone knowing.
What causes Birth Asphyxia?
There are many different reasons why a child may suffer from birth asphyxia.
A common cause is the umbilical cord. During childbirth, the umbilical cord can become wrapped around your child’s neck, causing suffocation. This is a fairly common occurrence, and OBGYNs are trained to be able to recognize, prevent, and treat this occurrence.
Other causes of birth asphyxia are not as obvious to the untrained eye. Sometimes, birth asphyxia is not caused by a physical occurrence, but rather some biological reason for oxygen deprivation.
Common causes of birth asphyxia include:
- Too little oxygen in the mother’s blood before or during birth
- Problems with the placenta separating from the womb too soon
- Very long or difficult delivery
- A serious infection in the mother or baby
- High or low blood pressure in the mother
- Baby’s airway is not formed properly
- Baby’s airway is blocked
- Baby’s blood cells cannot carry enough oxygen (anemia)
How Dangerous is Birth Asphyxia?
Birth asphyxia is a broad term, so the severity of the condition varies significantly.
Many babies suffer from birth asphyxia briefly, and a trained OB/GYN can recognize the issue and treat it promptly. If this were to be the case with your child, it is unlikely any damage would occur.
If your child were to suffocate for a longer duration of time, they could suffer from short-term, long-term, or even permanent brain damage.
- The amount of harm depends on a variety of factors:
- How long your baby does not get enough oxygen
- How low the level of oxygen is
- How quickly the right treatment is given
Can my Baby Recover from Asphyxiation?
Again, the answer to this question varies.
Babies with mild or moderate asphyxia may recover fully.
Babies with severe asphyxia may suffer from permanent injury affecting their brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, bowels or other organs.
A treatment method known as body cooling (therapeutic hypothermia) can improve outcomes for babies born at full term or near term that have suffered from asphyxia.
Babies born 5 or more weeks early cannot have body cooling.
In the most severe cases, birth asphyxia can kill an infant.
The Stages of Birth Asphyxia
Two stages of injury can happen with birth asphyxia:
The first stage happens within minutes if blood flow is low and cells do not get enough oxygen. This stage is where the asphyxiation actually occurs.
The second stage is called “reperfusion injury.”
This stage can last for days or even weeks. This injury happens after the brain starts getting normal levels of blood and oxygen. Toxins released from the damaged cells cause this injury.
It is crucially important that you contact a doctor if your baby suffered from birth asphyxia. In fact, your OB/GYN should have already spoken to you about your child’s injury if this tragic event occurred.
In cases where doctors neglected to properly care for your baby, or where doctors did not recognize the signs and symptoms of birth asphyxia, a birth injury lawyer or medical malpractice lawyer can help you to claim compensation for your child’s suffering.
If your baby was injured due to birth asphyxia, and you believe doctors could have prevented it, contact the team of birth injury lawyers at Merson Law PLLC immediately for a case evaluation.