Birth asphyxia is the name for when a baby is deprived of oxygen during birth. While in many cases this oxygen deprivation is relatively mild and will not have long-term negative consequences for the child, where the problem is more severe it can result in serious life-long conditions.
Fortunately, the major risk factors for birth asphyxia are well known and can therefore be carefully watched for during a birth. This means that if a problem occurs, or is about to occur, the midwife and medical team handling the birth should be able to take swift action to prevent major complications.
In this article, we look at the most common causes of birth asphyxia, what can be done to deal with them and what happens if the right action is not taken promptly.
Common Causes of Birth Asphyxia
There are various different factors that can lead to a baby being deprived of oxygen during their birth. Some of the most common are:
- Low oxygen levels in the mother’s blood
- High or low blood pressure in the mother
- Long or difficult delivery
- The placenta separating from the womb too early
- The umbilical cord becoming wrapped around the baby’s neck during birth
- The baby’s airways becoming blocked
- The baby’s airways not being properly formed
- Anaemia or other reasons meaning the baby’s blood cells cannot carry enough oxygen
- A serious infection in the mother or baby
Avoiding Birth Asphyxia
Midwives, obstetricians and other healthcare professionals dealing with childbirth will have extensive training in the potential problems that can occur during a birth. It is their job to mitigate any risks to prevent issues.
By carefully monitoring the mother and baby, they should be able to take appropriate preventative action or initiate medical intervention where necessary. For example, if a delivery is taking too long, the medical team should be prepared to proceed with a caesarean section promptly to ensure no harm comes to the mother or child.
By taking the right measures, serious oxygen deprivation can almost always be avoided in modern hospitals.
Treatment for Oxygen Deprivation during Birth
Where birth asphyxia has occurred, there are various treatments that can be used to minimise any potential damage. This includes using breathing apparatus to ensure the newborn gets enough oxygen, cooling therapy, getting the baby to inhale nitric oxide and placing them on a heart-lung machine.
With appropriate treatment provided quickly enough, babies who experience mild or moderate oxygen deprivation will often make a full recovery. Those who suffer more severe birth asphyxia may need on-going treatment, potentially for the rest of their lives.
Effects of Birth Asphyxia
Oxygen deprivation during birth can have a number of effects, including causing brain damage and damage to other organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and bowels. This can then lead to life-long conditions, including cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and impaired vision or even complete blindness.
If your child is left with lasting medical consequences due to birth asphyxia, it may be worth looking into making a medical negligence claim. If the problem was caused by mistakes made by the medical team handling the birth, you may be able to win a financial settlement that could help to ensure your child gets the support and treatment they need to live a full, happy life.
IBB Claims are a law firm specialising in all types of birth injury claims so can offer expert advice and support through the entire process of claiming compensation for birth asphyxia or any other type of birth injury.