Birth asphyxia, or perinatal asphyxia, refers to oxygen deprivation during labor or delivery long enough to cause physical harm, including brain damage. This oxygen deprivation can result from many factors, including excessive contractions, umbilical cord compression, pre-eclampsia, and instances of medical malpractice, including failure to respond to fetal distress in a timely or appropriate manner.

Understanding Your Birth Asphyxia Case

When birth asphyxia is severe, it can injure brain cells and cause potentially fatal conditions, including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), brain injuries, seizures, and cerebral palsy. Because brain trauma is the most serious birth injury a baby can suffer, it has the potential for devastating long-term effects that create life-long challenges for victims and families. Children who suffer brain injuries during birth can also display increased signs and symptoms as they age.

Here are some of the long-term effects of birth asphyxia:

  • Difficulties with developmental milestones
  • Movement disorders
  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders
  • Difficulty caring for themselves
  • Cognitive impairments or delays
  • Speech, feeding, and learning disabilities
  • Behavioral or emotional disorders
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Neurologic or mental health conditions

Because Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy develops when there is birth asphyxia, and because it increases the potential for permanent brain damage and long-term conditions, it is now the standard for medical professionals to administer hypothermia therapy, or head cooling, when newborns are diagnosed with HIE.

Time is critical when administering head cooling, and doctors should perform the treatment within six hours of delivery. When head cooling is performed correctly and in time, research shows it can stop and prevent significant brain damage.

When medical professionals fail to meet an accepted standard of care, the risks of a baby developing serious conditions and long-term adverse health effects increase.

When babies suffer harm as a result of substandard care, families can assert their rights to hold medical professionals accountable and seek a financial recovery of their damages, which can include compensation for the future economic needs families will have as their children age.

Steps to Take If You Suspect Negligence

If you suspect that your child’s birth asphyxia may have been caused by medical negligence, it’s crucial to act quickly. Here are some initial steps you can take:

  • Gather Medical Records: Collect your and your child’s medical records related to pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
  • Consult with a Birth Injury Lawyer: An experienced attorney can review your case, determine if medical malpractice may be involved, and advise you on your legal options.
  • Keep Detailed Records: Document any ongoing medical care your child needs, therapy appointments, and any out-of-pocket expenses related to your child’s injury.

What Are Your Legal Options for Compensation?

Birth asphyxia can have devastating consequences for newborns, and as we detailed above, these injuries may be caused by medical neglect. If a medical professional’s actions or inactions during pregnancy, labor, or delivery deprive a baby of oxygen, it could be considered medical malpractice. Here are some examples of situations that might lead to a birth injury claim:

  • Failure to properly monitor the mother and fetus during pregnancy or labor and missing signs of fetal distress as a result
  • Delaying a necessary C-section when complications arise during delivery
  • Misuse of forceps or vacuum during delivery
  • Improper use of anesthesia during labor that leads to oxygen deprivation

If you believe the negligence of a medical provider caused your child’s birth asphyxia, you may be entitled to compensation for the following damages:

  • Medical Expenses: This covers the cost of all medical treatment related to your child’s birth injury, including hospitalization, surgery, therapy, medication, and future medical needs.
  • Lost Wages: If you or your partner have had to take time off work to care for your child, you may be able to recover compensation for lost wages.
  • Pain and Suffering: This compensates your child for the physical and emotional pain caused by the birth injury.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: This covers the limitations your child may face due to the birth injury, impacting their ability to engage in life to the fullest.
  • Wrongful Death: In the tragic event that a birth injury results in a newborn’s death, compensation may be available for funeral and burial expenses, as well as parental emotional trauma.

Find the Support Your Family Needs

Although pursuing legal compensation is an essential part of dealing with a birth injury, there is a devastating emotional side to your situation. It’s important to know about these additional resources available to support your family through the emotional aspects:

  • Family and friends: Let your loved ones provide emotional and practical support when possible.
  • Counseling: Dealing with a child’s birth injury can be emotionally overwhelming. Consider counseling to help you and your family work through these difficult emotions.
  • Support groups: Connecting with other families who have experienced similar situations can provide valuable support and understanding, helping you feel less alone.
  • Educational workshops and seminars: Workshops and seminars are available to help educate families about birth injuries, available treatment options, and other resources.

The right support system and legal help will go a long way toward helping you through the challenges associated with a birth injury.

Schedule a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Birth Asphyxia Case

Over the years, Beam Legal Team has handled many birth injury cases involving birth asphyxia, medical malpractice, and failures to perform therapeutic head cooling, and has recovered millions of dollars in compensation on our clients’ behalf.

If your child suffered birth asphyxia during birth, we encourage you to learn more about your legal rights and birth injury claims by speaking with a member of our firm. Contact us to request a free consultation.

Originally published July 10, 2017.