Most pregnant women make a concerted effort to take good care of their health for the sake of their baby. They eat the right foods, take their prenatal vitamins and go to all scheduled doctor’s appointments.
They check into the delivery room when labor starts believing their baby is healthy and expecting a routine birth. But labor and delivery do not always go as expected, despite the best-laid plans.
Sometimes an infant suffers a birth injury while in the womb or during the labor and delivery process. One of these injuries is perinatal asphyxia. This is frightening and worrisome for parents. What does this injury mean for their baby’s future?
What is perinatal asphyxia?
Perinatal asphyxia occurs when the movement of blood into the infant’s bodily tissues or the infant’s blood-oxygen level is compromised before, during or immediately following the birth process. For example, an obstruction in the umbilical cord, fetal infection and exposure to dangerous drugs in the womb can all cause perinatal asphyxia.
What happens if a baby suffers perinatal asphyxia?
Infants who suffer perinatal asphyxia when born can barely breathe and have a dangerously slow heart rate. They require immediate resuscitation. They may need a breathing tube or mechanical ventilation following the birth.
They may be in shock and require intravenous (IV) fluids or need a blood transfusion. They could have seizures or fall into a coma.
Long-term effects of perinatal asphyxia
Infants who suffer perinatal asphyxia can develop permanent brain damage. This could lead to learning disorders later on in life, developmental delays or even serious medical conditions such as cerebral palsy. In the worst-case scenario, perinatal asphyxia can be fatal.
Perinatal asphyxia and medical malpractice
While sometimes the cause of perinatal asphyxia cannot be identified, other times it is due to a mistake or oversight on the part of the doctor.
The doctor could fail to identify problems with the umbilical cord either in the womb or during labor and delivery. The doctor could overlook fetal or maternal infections or permit the mother to take medications while pregnant that can harm the fetus.
These acts, when done without due care, might be considered negligent. Doctors are expected to provide the level of care that other competent, similarly situated doctors would exercise. The failure to do so might be considered negligence. If this failure harms the infant, the parents might consider pursuing compensation.