Birth asphyxia is a medical condition that occurs when a baby’s brain and other organs do not get enough oxygen before, during, or right after birth. This lack of oxygen can lead to serious health issues, ranging from mild, short-lived conditions to severe, long-term disabilities.

The longer oxygen deprivation lasts, the more babies are exposed to the risk of serious health consequences such as brain damage, life-altering conditions like Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), and even death.

Medical professionals are supposed to adequately monitor mothers and babies to identify potential complications, as well as respond quickly and appropriately when issues arise. When they fail to do this, you need a birth injury lawyer on your side. At Beam Legal Team, our nationally recognized lawyers have handled many birth injury cases on behalf of families across the country, including cases involving oxygen deprivation.

If your child suffered birth asphyxia, contact our team at your earliest opportunity.

Time Frame for Oxygen Deprivation

Survival for babies that experience oxygen deprivation will range, as outcomes vary depending on how severe it is, how long it persists, and how quickly medical professionals can intervene. In general, a person can survive without oxygen to the brain for 5 to 10 minutes, but not without consequences.

Here is a further breakdown of effects:

  • After 1 minute of oxygen deprivation, cells in the brain begin to die, but survival and recovery are possible, especially if appropriate treatment methods are taken.
  • After 3 minutes of oxygen deprivation, the brain is likely to experience serious damage.
  • After 10 minutes without oxygen, the resulting brain damage is often severely disabling and permanent.
  • After 15 minutes, there is little possibility for survival or recovery.

Causes of Oxygen Deprivation

Several factors can disrupt the oxygen supply during birth, including:

  • Placental Issues: Separation of the placenta from the uterine wall before delivery (placental abruption) or problems with the umbilical cord (prolapsed or knotted cord) can restrict blood flow and oxygen delivery to the baby.
  • Maternal Health Complications: Preeclampsia or low blood pressure can compromise oxygenated blood flow to the placenta.
  • Prolonged or Difficult Labor: Extended delivery times or complications during labor can deplete the baby’s oxygen reserves.
  • Fetal Factors: Certain congenital malformations or breathing difficulties in the baby can hinder oxygen intake after birth.

When healthcare providers fail to recognize or treat birth complications or warning signs in time, they could potentially be liable for harm to the baby or mother that results.

Diagnosing Oxygen Deprivation

Birth asphyxia is not always immediately evident. Some signs to watch for in your baby include:

  • Difficulty breathing or gasping
  • Low heart rate
  • Pale or bluish skin color
  • Muscle weakness or limpness
  • Seizures

Diagnosis often involves a combination of:

  • Physical Examination: Doctors assess the baby’s vital signs, muscle tone, and reflexes.
  • Blood Tests: Blood analysis can reveal oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the baby’s blood.
  • Fetal Monitoring: During labor, continuous monitoring of the baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels can provide early warning signs of potential asphyxia.

Early Intervention is Key

Immediate medical intervention is crucial in cases of birth asphyxia. If there is resulting brain damage, its severity can vary depending on whether medical professionals upheld their legal obligation to address complications in a timely and reasonable manner. Treatments may involve:

  • Oxygen Supplementation: Providing additional oxygen through a mask or ventilator can help stabilize the baby’s breathing.
  • Emergency C-sectionsSwiftly delivering the baby might allow them to breathe independently.
  • Head Cooling: Lowering the baby’s temperature can help reduce brain injury risk.
  • Medications: Medications may be used to control seizures or improve blood flow.
  • Supportive Care: Close monitoring and respiratory support are essential in the hours and days following birth asphyxia.

Legal Criteria for Birth Injury Malpractice

When a birth results in injury to the child, navigating the emotional and legal complexities can be overwhelming. In such cases, understanding the legal criteria for medical malpractice in birth injury cases can bring clarity and potential recourse to affected families. Two key elements form the foundation of these claims: negligence and standard of care.

Standard of Care

The standard of care sets the benchmark for expected medical care in similar situations. In birth injury cases, this involves analyzing how a similarly qualified medical professional would have acted under the same circumstances. Expert medical testimony plays a crucial role in establishing the prevailing standard of care and demonstrating how your doctor might have diverged from it.


Negligence in medical malpractice hinges on establishing that a healthcare provider deviated from the accepted standard of care. This means proving that the medical professional did something they shouldn’t have done (such as delaying a necessary C-section) or failed to do something they should have done (such as monitoring fetal distress). Simply experiencing a negative outcome during childbirth is not enough—the evidence must demonstrate a direct connection between the provider’s behavior and the child’s injuries.

Establishing negligence through breach of the standard of care can involve compiling medical records, witness testimonies, expert opinions, and other relevant evidence. Seeking legal counsel from a specialized birth injury attorney is crucial if you suspect medical malpractice. They can navigate the complexities of the law, gather evidence, and build a strong case to help you seek compensation for your child’s injuries and your family’s suffering.

Get Legal Help with Your Child’s Case

If your child suffered a brain injury at birth as a result of oxygen deprivation, or if death occurred, it is in your best interests to speak with an attorney about your legal rights and whether you may have a valid claim for compensation for your family’s loss. As proven attorneys, our legal team can help you identify potential instances of medical malpractice, and guide you through your legal journey toward justice and fair compensation.

Contact Beam Legal Team to speak with a lawyer in a free consultation.

Originally published July 14, 2017.