Oxygen Deprivation During Birth

Causes of Oxygen Deprivation During BirthOxygen Deprivation During Birth

When a baby is in utero, the placenta provides all the oxygen and nutrients the fetus needs to survive and grow. During labor, the baby journeys down the birth canal, but complications can arise that reduce or cut off the infant’s oxygen supply. With proper monitoring and speedy intervention, the baby can be delivered without consequence. Without the proper standard of care or a poor diagnosis, the infant can suffer oxygen deprivation and be left with brain damage or permanent birth injuries.

Birth Asphyxia

Lack of oxygen at the time of or just following birth can cause temporary or permanent brain damage in an infant. Compression of the umbilical cord, failure to do a C-section quickly, a difficult or long delivery, infection, blood pressure problems, anesthesia complications, and more can cause oxygen deprivation during birth. If birth asphyxia is not treated immediately or if it is too severe, it can cause cerebral palsy, developmental delays, or intellectual disabilities.

Delayed Emergency C-section

Some C-sections are scheduled, often because a mother has a health problem, has had a previous C-section, is carrying multiples, or the child is improperly positioned for birth. There are different types of C-sections and surgical deliveries. All come with risks, but all can save the life of mother and baby.

If an emergency C-section is delayed, or a doctor fails to realize that warning signs were present that indicated the need for a C-section, an infant can suffer oxygen deprivation.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), also known as neonatal encephalopathy, is the inadequate distribution of oxygen to the entire brain. When a baby suffers low levels of oxygen in the blood, the cells of the central nervous system are damaged. To provide adequate, immediate intervention, medical professionals must recognize the symptoms of HIE after birth and be extra vigilant in monitoring a child that has had a traumatic delivery.

Sometimes, HIE is not diagnosed until a child begins to grow and misses developmental milestones. Twin pregnancies are at a higher risk of birth injuries and HIE.

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

Meconium is the infant’s first stool and should be passed within a day after birth. If an overdue baby passes the meconium before birth and it mixes with the amniotic fluid, the baby will ingest the meconium which mixture can linger in the lungs and cause oxygen loss, pneumonia, or blocked airways. This oxygen deprivation must be treated in a timely manner to avoid permanent birth injury.

Neonatal Resuscitation Errors

Some babies need breathing assistance after birth. There are different types of resuscitation treatments and the physician must make a quick decision about the best method for the circumstances at hand. Failure to resuscitate the baby speedily and effectively deprives the infant of precious oxygen, which can lead to birth asphyxia and a risk of permanent brain damage.

Nuchal Cord

A nuchal cord brain injury can occur when the baby’s umbilical cord is wrapped around its neck. Nuchal cords are common and most babies are delivered without incident. If the cord is tightly coiled around the infant’s neck or compressed in any way during pregnancy or delivery, however, a baby could be deprived of oxygen.


Some newborn babies need a ventilator to regulate respiratory function and lessen the chances of apnea or respiratory failure. A breathing machine is often used in premature births to provide oxygen. Ventilators, quite often, save newborn lives.

However, if a ventilator is used improperly or poorly monitored, the child can get too much oxygen and expel too much carbon dioxide. Babies whose lungs are not fully developed are especially susceptible to overventilation which can cause lung damage, brain damage, and potentially lead to cerebral palsy or mental retardation.

Prolonged or Arrested Labor

In deliveries that are not routine and last more than 18 to 24 hours, a mother is diagnosed as experiencing prolonged labor. If the delivery process stops completely and a baby is no longer progressing through the birth canal, that is known as arrested labor. In either situation, a baby’s access to oxygen can be compromised. Some doctors choose to help delivery along by using vacuum extraction or forceps or call for an emergency C-section, putting the baby at risk of birth asphyxia and brain damage.

Michigan Birth Injury: Oxygen Deprivation During Birth

If your baby suffered oxygen deprivation during birth and the problem could have been prevented, medical staff can and should be held responsible for negligence, substandard care, and medical malpractice. The Michigan birth injury lawyers at Thurswell Law are prepared to fight on your behalf so you can receive the financial compensation you deserve for the emotional, physical, and monetary suffering you and your family have had to endure. Contact us at (248) 354-2222 to schedule your free consultation We do not charge any fees unless you collect.

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