Infant Brain Injury, Seizures, Mental Impairment and Cerebral Palsy Can all be Caused by Oxygen Deprivation During Labor and Delivery
Oxygen deprivation, or asphyxia, can cause devastating injury to a fetus or newborn during pregnancy, labor, the birth process, and even in newborns after their birth. When the supply of oxygen to a baby is impaired serious brain injury resulting in lifelong seizure disorders, mental impairment, and cerebral palsy can result.
Oxygen deprivation can occur when the umbilical cord twists or is compressed or the baby becomes entangled and choked by the cord, but may also be caused by physical trauma during labor and delivery. Infant jaundice can also be a tragic cause of oxygen deprivation in newborns, and left undetected and treated can lead to kernicterus, a type of brain damage caused by high levels of bilirubin that enter into the brain from the blood stream. Maternal infections can also cause oxygen problems for the baby.
Oxygen deprivation may also cause blindness, paralysis, the ability to express emotions, apply analytic thought, and affect the ability to speak.
“Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is one of the most serious birth complications affecting full term infants. It occurs in 1.5 to 2.5 per 1000 live births in developed countries. HIE is a brain injury that prevents adequate blood flow to the infant’s brain occurring as a result of a hypoxic-ischemic event during the prenatal, intrapartum or postnatal period. By the age of 2 years, up to 60% of infants with HIE will die or have severe disabilities including mental retardation, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy (CP).” Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy: Pathophysiology and Experimental Treatments, Kimberly A. Allen, MSN, RN and Debra H. Brandon, PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN
Oxygen deprivation not only harms the brain, but can also cause damage to the heart, kidneys, liver, as well impact as the ability to breath and feed. Infants who suffer serious organ injuries have a grim prognosis. Although it is possible for an infant to suffer brain damage without developing cerebral palsy, typically, the child will have lifelong complications impacting their quality of life and require long-term care or treatment.
Types of Oxygen Deprivation
There are two types of oxygen deprivation that can cause problems for a fetus or infant during (or after) delivery. They are:
- Hypoxia is partial oxygen deprivation (or, when there is too little oxygen for the baby), can be sufficient to cause mild brain damage, mental impairment, and cerebral palsy.
- Anoxia is a complete deprivation of oxygen which often leads to severe brain damage to the baby, including cerebral palsy, mental impairment, or infant death.
Causes of Oxygen Deprivation
Causes of fetal and infant asphyxia include:
- Contractions that are too close together either due to naturally occurring uterine contractions, or caused by too much medication used to stimulate contractions (i.e. due to the administration of Cervidil,, Cytotec, and Pitocin);
- Prolapsed umbilical cord;
- Maternal infections;
- Eclampsia and preeclampsia;
- Physical trauma during labor and/or delivery process; and
- Fetal distress, such as shoulder dystocia, which can trap the baby delaying delivery or exposing the baby to the risk of asphyxia if contractions squeeze the infant’s neck.
Are doctors to blame when in infant suffers brain damage?
In some cases, yes, in others, no. Birth injury cases can be complicated because it must be proved that an infant who has suffered brain injury or other injury during or after birth did so due to negligence or medical malpractice. Doctors, nurses, hospitals, and even insurance companies all have certain duties and standards of care they must adhere to, and if they do not, may be subject to a civil action or claim filed against them. For this reason, any questions you ask of your medical providers or even your own insurance company may not be answered accurately or completely. It is important that you contact our law offices if your baby suffered a birth injury so we can discover the facts for you. Doctors and insurance companies cannot offer you legal advice and may not be objective in assessing the cause of your baby’s medical problems.
Doctor, hospital and other medical records, as well as certain types of tests can all help you gain a better understanding of what went wrong and why, and build a framework for any necessary legal action.
It is also important to understand that in cases involving birth injuries, your child may need expensive care for an extended period of time, or even a lifetime. Insurance companies sometimes offer a quick settlements hoping you will accept their offer, but these initial settlements are almost always in favor of the insurer and may not be in the best financial interest of you, or your baby.
Compassionate and Experienced Birth Injury Attorneys Serving all of California
Our attorneys will aggressively pursue fair compensation to help you, and your baby, now, and into the future. As your legal representative, we will only seek an outcome that is most favorable for you. Contact our law offices today to see if you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, hospital and medical bills, emotional distress, and for long-term care that may be necessary for your child. California medical malpractice claims have a statute of limitations so the sooner you call, the sooner we can start helping you and your child.
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