Birth asphyxia occurs when a child does not get sufficient oxygen during labor and delivery. This may happen due to a number of factors such as complications during birth involving a prolonged labor and negligence (carelessness) on the part of the obstetrician or medical staff who fail to properly handle fetal distress or monitor the mother and child. Birth asphyxia is a serious issue because it can cause oxygen to get cut off from the baby’s brain leading to brain cells getting damaged. This damage tends to cause birth injuries such as cerebral palsy.
Here are four important things you should know about birth asphyxia.
1. Birth Asphyxia is typically caused by an obstruction.
The baby received oxygenated blood from the mother inside the womb through the placenta and the umbilical cord. The blood vessels between the uterus and the placenta play a role similar to the lungs in the human body. So, anything that impacts blood flow along this pathway may affect the baby’s oxygenation. So, if the mother’s blood pressure drops or if there are issues with the umbilical cord or placenta, the baby might not receive sufficient oxygen. In some cases when there is umbilical cord compression, the baby will be completely deprived of oxygenated blood. These are considered emergencies and it is critical that the baby is delivered immediately before the oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) results in brain damage.
2. There are several risks that may lead to birth asphyxia.
Here are some of the common causes and risk factors that lead to the baby’s brain becoming deprived of oxygen:
• Placental issues: The placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. This essentially provides oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby and removes waste products from the baby’s blood. The placenta attached to the wall of the uterus and the baby’s umbilical cord arises from it. If the placenta, for example, detaches from the uterine wall, the baby might not receive its critical supply of oxygen and nutrients.
• Anesthesia errors: This may cause blood pressure problems in the mother leading to the decrease in the supply of oxygen-rich blood going to the baby.
• Prolonged labor: This is when labor lasts for about 20 hours or more for first-time moms or 14 hours or more if you have previously given birth. When the child is trapped in the birth canal, it may cause the oxygen supply to get cut off.
• Induced labor: Labor-inducing drugs such as Pitocin and Cytotec may lead to oxygen deprivation.
3. Not performing an emergency Cesarean section may cause asphyxia and birth injuries.
When the mother is at risk for prolonged or difficult labor, the doctor must make a decision regarding whether to perform a Cesarean section (C-section). When conditions get dangerous for the baby unexpectedly during a difficult labor, the doctor must make a decision regarding whether an emergency C-section is required to get the baby out safely. Failing to perform a timely C-section may potentially cause oxygen deprivation and long-term brain damage.
4. Asphyxia during birth may cause serious birth injuries.
The degree of brain injury in the baby due to asphyxia depends on the severity of the oxygen deprivation during birth, the duration of the asphyxia, the baby’s age and the medical management of the baby during and after birth. Asphyxia during birth may result in serious birth injuries including cerebral palsy, which the Mayo Clinic defines as “a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.” Cerebral palsy is often characterized by seizure disorders, problems with motor functions, developmental delays, speech and learning disabilities, hearing and visual impairments and problems with feeding and breathing.
Compensation for Victims and Families
Birth injuries can leave children with permanent disabilities or in worst-case scenarios, result in the death of the child. In cases where the birth injuries occurred due to the negligence (carelessness) or incompetence of a doctor or hospital staff, victims’ families may seek compensation by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
We have seen many cases where New York City Health and Hospital Corporation hospitals deliver babies who are born with cerebral palsy or erb’s palsy stemming from negligence (carelessness) and/or medical malpractice in the labor and delivery etc. of the children. The following list identifies some of these hospitals (operated by New York City Health and Hospital Corporation):
• Jacobi Hospital aka Bronx Municipal 1400 Pelham Parkway South Bronx, New York 10461 718-918-5000
• Lincoln Hospital 234 East 149th Street Bronx, New York 10451 718-579-5000
• North Central Bronx Hospital 3424 Kossuth Avenue Bronx, New York 10467 718-519-5000
• Coney Island Hospital 2601 Ocean Parkway Brooklyn, New York 11235 718-616-3000
• Kings County Hospital 451 Clarkson Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11203 718-245-3131 BIGGEST HOSPITAL IN THE WORLD
• Woodhull Hospital 760 Broadway Brooklyn, New York 11206 718-963-8000
• Bellevue Hospital 462 First Avenue New York, New York 10016 212-562-5555
• Harlem Hospital 506 Lenox Avenue New York, New York 10037 212-939-1000
• Metropolitan Hospital 1901 First Avenue New York, New York 10029 212-423-6262
• Elmhurst Hospital 79-01 Broadway Elmhurst, New York 11373 718-334-4000
• Queens Hospital Center 82-68 164th Street Jamaica, New York 11432 718-883-3000
If you or a loved one was the victim of medical negligence (carelessness), the New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Our law firm helped a family secure a $43,940,000 verdict for a child who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The victim’s cerebral palsy in that case was the result of lack of oxygen to the brain.
Another client of ours received a $23,500,000 verdict for a child who developed cerebral palsy and mental retardation after suffering a birth injury. Both verdicts were so large that they were reduced on appeal. We also recovered $1,846,000 and $1,400,000 for two newborns who lost motion in their arms during birth due to doctors applying incorrect force on the baby’s head
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