Did Perinatal Asphyxia Cause Your Child's Injuries?

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You carry a child waiting for the moment that you will be able to hold your healthy baby in your arms. Unfortunately, if something goes wrong during the delivery, your child could suffer from perinatal asphyxia. If this condition lasts long enough, you may find yourself caring for a newborn with special needs, or in severe cases, it could cause your child to die. If your child has been affected by perinatal asphyxia, knowing more about this condition may start to answer some of your questions and may help you determine whether or not you need the services of a birth injury attorney.

What Is Perinatal Asphyxia?

Perinatal asphyxia, which is also called neonatal or birth asphyxia. This is a condition where your baby is deprived of oxygen at some point during the birthing process, long enough to result in physical harm to your child. When your child is deprived of oxygen, damage can occur in many of your child's organs, including their brain.

Without oxygen, your baby's cells are not able to operate the way they have been designed. Acids build up within the cells, and this acid can cause temporary, or even permanent, damage.

While some babies with mild cases of perinatal asphyxia are able to make a full recovery, other babies with advanced cases will often demonstrate multiple disabilities. These include physical spasticity, developmental delays, and intellectual disabilities. Perinatal asphyxia may even lead to cerebral palsy, attention deficit disorder, and visual difficulties. 

The severity of the case is often determined by how long your child is without oxygen and the type of treatment that is offered at the time of birth. Perinatal asphyxia is more common in premature infants than it is with full-term pregnancies, but it can still occur in approximately four out of every 1,000 full-term births. 

What Causes Perinatal Asphyxia?

There are many different causes of perinatal asphyxia. Some of these take place due to conditions affecting the mother. Some of these are:

  • The mother's having low oxygen levels in her blood during the birthing process
  • Drawn out and difficult labor and delivery
  • The placenta separating from the uterus too soon before birth
  • An infection in the mother's blood stream prior to birth
  • High or even low blood pressure during birth

Other common causes directly affect the baby. Some of these include:

  • A serious infection in the baby's blood stream
  • The baby's airway not being properly formed or blocked
  • Being tangled in the umbilical cord during delivery
  • The baby being anemic and more

What Are The Signs And Symptoms?

Many times the first indication that there is a problem with perinatal asphyxia may be seen on the fetal monitor during delivery, when you baby's heart rate drops, or becomes very low. Upon delivery, your delivery team may see that your baby is not breathing, or that their breathing is very shallow.

Your baby may be very pale, or even bluish in color from the lack of oxygen to the tissues. Upon examination, it may be determined that your child's muscle tone is very poor, and that they exhibit weak reflexes. Further testing may indicate acidosis, or high acid levels within their blood. 

What Can Be Done?

If your medical team suspects they are dealing with a case of perinatal asphyxia prior to delivery, they may suggest an emergency c-section. They may attempt to prevent the condition by offering you additional oxygen before and during delivery.

After delivery, with mild cases of perinatal asphyxia, your child may only need their airways cleared and a little bit of assistance with breathing until they are able to breathe normally on their own. If this is not enough, your baby may have to be put on a mechanical ventilator, or a breathing machine, to breathe for them. Medications may be given to help treat any other symptoms they may be displaying. Your medical team may even reduce your baby's body temperature for a period of time in an effort to combat and reduce any type of brain damage. The quicker these efforts are started, the better chance your child may have of recovery.

Unfortunately, things can go wrong during the birthing process. How much of this is nature and how much of this is due to the negligence of your medical professionals is often difficult to decipher, since your medical team is not going to confess to their negligence. 

A birth injury attorney, such as those at Snyder & Wenner, P.C., can help exam your case and determine whether or not your medical team placed you and your child at risk. Unfortunately, if your child has experienced perinatal asphyxia, they may require a lifetime of treatment. It is not fair that this expense falls on you if someone else is to blame.