Perinatal Asphyxia

A decrease in blood flow to the baby’s tissues, or decrease in oxygen in the baby’s blood pre-, during, or post-delivery is called Perinatal asphyxia. Some of the most common causes of Perinatal asphyxia include the following:

  • Placenta has separation from the uterus before delivery (placental abruption)
  • Umbilical cord blood flow due to obstruction
  • Fetus with abnormal development (specifically, when there is a genetic abnormality)
  • Fetus with a severe infection
  • Certain drugs exposure before birth
  • Severe maternal hemorrhage or illness

Infants who have experienced decreased oxygen will appear pale and lifeless at birth. They have a very slow heart rate and breathe weakly, or sometimes, not at all. Newborns with these symptoms must be revived (resuscitated) immediately. The use of a resuscitation bag and mask pushes air into the lungs or insertion of a breathing tube in the newborn’s throat (endotracheal intubation). The newborn may be in shock if asphyxia resulted from rapid blood loss. In this case, infants are immediately given fluids by vein, sometimes requiring a blood transfusion.

Newborns with asphyxia may show signs of injury to one or more organ systems, including:

  • Heart: Poor color, low blood pressure
  • Lungs: Difficulty breathing and low oxygen levels
  • Brain: Lethargy, seizures, or even coma
  • Kidneys: Reduced output of urine
  • Liver: Difficulty digesting milk
  • Blood forming system: Low platelet count and bleeding

To assist with their proper heart function, newborns may need drugs and a mechanical ventilator to support their breathing. Some revived newborns may benefit from having their body temperature lowered below the normal temperature of 98.6° F (37° C) for up to 72 hours. To manage problems with the blood-forming system, blood cell transfusions and plasma may be necessary for the infant following delivery. If timely recognized, organs damaged by perinatal asphyxia can recover, but brain damage may persist and should be monitored for immediate treatment. Babies who receive proper care with minimal injury to the brain may be completely normal. However, babies who do not receive proper care may have moderate to severe injury to the brain and exhibit more permanent signs of damage. These permanent signs may range from mild learning disorders to delayed development to cerebral palsy. Some severely asphyxiated infants do not survive following post-delivery and specialty treatments.

Do you suspect that your infant may have suffered a birth injury or birth trauma? If so, get medical attention for your child right away. Timely and proper treatment of the suspected or recognized birth injury will increase the odds that your infant will survive with as little damage as possible. If you have questions or need help determining your case, contact Potter Burnett Law today.

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