Neonatal Asphyxia is defined as respiratory failure in a newborn infant. This condition can be caused by the inadequate intake of oxygen before, during, or just after birth. Newborn infants normally start to breathe without assistance and cry almost immediately after delivery. Within one minute of delivery, most infants are breathing well without assistance. Neonatal asphyxia is present when an infant fails to establish sustained respiration after birth. Another sign of Neonatal asphyxia is when an infant has no tone and/or low tone (unable to move extremities on its own) after delivery.
What Causes Neonatal Asphyxia?
Inadequate oxygen levels to the fetus may affect the baby’s heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow. This may inhibit blood flow to organs and tissues, causing damage to cell function. Conditions that affect the likelihood of Neonatal Asphyxia throughout labor and delivery include entanglement and/or prolapse of the umbilical cord, or an abnormal umbilical cord length. In addition, a small or large fetus, or a fetus with malformations, may contribute to Neonatal Asphyxia. If the placenta partially or totally covers the mother’s cervix (placenta previa), or if the placenta peels away from the wall of the uterus before delivery (placental abruption), fetal distress may occur, causing asphyxia during labor.
What are the Signs of Neonatal Asphyxia?
Obstetricians, nurses, and other medical staff exercising appropriate care will be watching for low blood pressure, poor muscle tone, or a low APGAR score (a test to evaluate the condition of the newborn’s adequacy of respiration, heart function and tone). Acid levels in the umbilical cord can also be checked. Babies may show varying symptoms when experiencing this condition, but will usually have an abnormal heart rate, pale skin color, and/or poor reflexes. If the baby’s circulatory system has problems, it may be a result of birth asphyxia.
Treatment for Neonatal Asphyxia
The baby may need to be delivered by C-Section if it is experiencing distress. This procedure may be recommended to a high risk mother before labor. In situations where a vaginal birth has taken place, a low APGAR score may indicate low vital signs, alerting the nurse or obstetrician that the baby is not receiving an adequate supply of oxygen. The importance of immediate action is imperative and the most important factor in decreasing the possibility of permanent injury to the baby. In recent years, medical professionals have used cooling blankets to lower the baby’s temperature, and possibly reduce the possible significant effects of Neonatal Asphyxia.
Physicians are trained to look for warning signs of birth asphyxia. When these signs are ignored or missed the unthinkable may occur, resulting in serious neurological problems or even death.
If birth asphyxia has taken place in your family, you should know and understand your legal rights. Fill out the contact form below to learn more about the actions you can take to obtain the compensation you deserve.