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What To Do If Your Baby Has Birth Asphyxia In Maryland

maryland birth injury attorneys

Birth asphyxia is a condition where oxygen levels in the blood are low due to a lack of oxygen at birth. This leads to brain damage and other complications and can occur during childbirth or soon after delivery. Babies who experience birth asphyxia often don’t breathe properly, leading to brain damage and other serious health problems.

Victims in Maryland can speak with an experienced birth injury lawyer to learn how they may be able to hold medical professionals liable. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) estimates that approximately 2 million babies die from birth asphyxia each year. In Maryland alone, over 3,500 babies died from birth asphyxia in 2016.

What Is Birth Asphyxia?

Birth asphyxia is a condition that occurs when the baby does not receive enough oxygen during birth. It is also referred to as Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE.  It can happen to babies who are born too soon or have been deprived of oxygen because the umbilical cord has wrapped around their neck, causing them to lose consciousness. In the first few hours of life, your baby needs 100 percent oxygen to survive. But with birth asphyxia, the amount of oxygen reaching the brain may not be enough.

This lack of oxygen can damage the brain cells and lead to permanent disabilities like cerebral palsy, developmental delay, learning problems, vision loss, hearing loss, seizures, and even death. Birth asphyxia occurs when the baby’s lungs aren’t fully developed at birth. The lack of oxygen causes damage to the brain, resulting in permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation.

In most cases, birth asphyxia is caused by a combination of factors including prolonged labor, obstructed labor, premature rupture of membranes, placental abruption, cord prolapse, fetal distress, maternal diabetes, and maternal smoking. It can also occur if the mother has a blood clotting disorder or if she has had preterm contractions.

Birth Asphyxia in newborns can occur before, during, or after birth. There are two stages that can occur, the first beginning within minutes after the baby's oxygen is lacking or cut off. This can cause immediate cell damage. The second can last from days to weeks and is known as reperfusion injury. This is when the normal blood flow and supply of oxygen gets resorted at the same time toxins are released from damaged cells.

What Causes Birth Asphyxia?

  1. Long or problematic delivery
  2. Premature rupture of membranes (PROM)
  3. Placental abruption
  4. Maternal fever or infection
  5. Hypertension or hypotension
  6. Fetal distress
  7. Pre-eclampsia/Eclampsia
  8. Obstructed labor
  9. Postpartum hemorrhage
  10. Uterine atony
  11. Amniotic fluid embolism
  12. Cord prolapse
  13. Umbilical cord around the neck
  14. Congenital abnormalities
  15. Other factors such as hypothermia, trauma
  16. An abnormally large fetus

A complication called shoulder dystocia can also result in birth asphyxia. In this case, the baby's shoulders become stuck behind the mother's pubic bone.

Signs of birth asphyxia can also appear post-birth as blood pressure or respiratory abnormalities may cause newborn asphyxia.

Brain damage begins to occur just 4 to 6 minutes after the oxygen supply is cut off. After this time, death is possible. Proper monitoring of the baby's vital signs is extremely important during pregnancy and delivery. Emergency c-sections are often performed when doctors notice something wrong with the baby, but sometimes the signs are not recognized until the baby is being born in distress.

What is an Obstructed Labor?

Obstructed labor is when the presenting part of the fetus cannot progress into the birth canal, despite contraction, it can also be referred to as labor dystocia.  If a woman experiences unusually long labor, her body will try to slow down or stop the process so that the baby doesn't come out prematurely. But sometimes, the baby's head gets stuck inside the mother's pelvis. This situation is known as obstructed labor.

If the baby's head becomes stuck in the mother's pelvic cavity, the baby won't get enough oxygen from the placenta. Without adequate oxygen, the baby loses consciousness.

How is Asphyxia Diagnosed?

There are several symptoms associated with birth asphyxia. Some of these include:

  • Weakness
  • Blue coloration
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pale skin
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of movement
  • Poor feeding

The most common symptom of birth asphyxia is blue-colored skin. This happens when the lack of oxygen causes the baby’s body to release chemicals called bilirubin into the bloodstream. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that helps the body produce red blood cells.

When the level of bilirubin becomes high, the skin turns blue. This is why doctors often look at the skin of an infant after delivery to determine whether he or she had birth asphyxia.

If you see any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately if you are not already in a hospital setting.

What Happens During Birth Asphyxia?

There are two main types of chemical changes that occur when oxygen levels in a baby decrease. Hypoxemia is when there is a low level of oxygen in the blood but the supply isn't completely cut off. The second condition is called acidosis, which is the existence of too much acid in the baby's blood.

If a newborn baby has a low heart rate and blood pressure, this is an indication that he/she was deprived of oxygen during labor. If left untreated, the baby could develop serious brain damage. The baby needs to receive treatment as soon as possible to avoid the long-term effects of birth defects due to fetal distress during labor.

If the baby is inside the mother, she can receive oxygen during labor and throughout delivery. If the problem persists, a C-section may be required. If the baby is born prematurely, the medical team may help the baby breathe by administering oxygen through a ventilator. They may also give the baby medications to keep its heart beating and blood flowing properly.

What Can I Expect After My Child Is Born With Birth Asphyxia?

After your child is born with birth asphyxia, there are several things that you can expect. First, you will want to go to the hospital right away, if not already there. The doctor will check your newborn’s vital signs and perform other tests to determine whether your child needs further treatment.

You may be asked to stay overnight in the hospital. During this time, you should rest and recover. You shouldn’t worry too much about your baby’s condition. A parent will need to seek legal help to ensure that their rights are protected.

Long-Term Complications

Long-term complications can arise after a baby suffers from birth asphyxia. They can affect the child for their entire life, and while they can be treated, many are incurable. Some of these complications can include:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Delays in development
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech delays
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Hearing or visual impairments

Cerebral Palsy and Birth Asphyxia

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development, or damage to the brain while it's developing. This can include asphyxia as it blocks oxygen to the brain. While cerebral palsy does not progress over the years, there will be a lifetime of treatment and care for the child.

Can Birth Asphyxia Be Treated?

Identifying that asphyxia has or is occurring and getting treatment as soon as possible can help decrease damage to the child. Mild cases can be treated with immediate breathing support to the child until they are able to breathe on their own. More serious cases may lead to a breathing machine, fluids, therapies, and medicines.

There have been advancements in treating birth asphyxia. High-frequency ventilation, inhaled nitric oxide, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation have been used in extreme or unique cases in recent years. Cooling therapies such as controlled hypothermia have also been found to help infants by the NIH.

The less time a baby is spent without oxygen, the better their chances at a mostly-full or full recovery. Unfortunately, the longer a baby spends without oxygen, the other parts of the body can be permanently affected. This can include:

  • Brain
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Bowels
  • or even death

It is important to know that birth asphyxia, or HIE, is not curable and may have varying levels of severity. Therapies can help manage the condition long-term and can help improve the functions of the child.

Should You Hire a Birth Injury Attorney?

It’s not easy to find a birth injury attorney that has the experience needed for successful negligence cases. If your child has been injured in the process of childbirth, you need someone on your side who has the knowledge and skills necessary to handle your case.

You should hire a lawyer who specializes in birth injuries because they understand how difficult it is for parents to deal with such situations. They also know how important it is to make sure that the medical providers involved in your care are held accountable for their mistakes.

At Maryland Injury Guys, our goal is to take the burden of filing a lawsuit off of your shoulders, allowing you to focus on your family and caring for your child.

Proving Negligence in Birth Injury Cases

In any personal injury lawsuit, negligence must first be proven. Negligence is "the failure to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances resulting in damage or injury to another"

An experienced birth injury lawyer will fully investigate the case and what happened leading up to, and after, birth asphyxia. In a medical sense, negligence may include:

  • Failure to diagnose a condition leading to birth injury
  • Failure to treat the condition leading to injury
  • Failure to inform about risks with labor and delivery

Too often babies die due to medical negligence, if proper care and treatment had been given the deaths may have been avoidable. It's estimated that one of six newborns will die within the first month of life. Doctors and medical facilities need to be held responsible for mistakes they may make, and the actions they take. Of course, even with the best care things can still go wrong.

Possible Damages You Can Recover From A Birth Asphyxia Lawsuit

Before filing a lawsuit, an attorney will determine what damages may be able to be sought, as well as calculate the values of these damages. Financial hardship is common for families who have suffered a birth injury. This is because medical expenses and therapies can be extremely expensive, even with the best insurance. Medical expenses are considered economic damages, and can include:

  • Cost of disability treatments
  • Special education
  • Lost parent wages
  • Rehabilitation
  • In-home care

Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or loss of quality of life can also be sought but are not as easily calculable.

Statute of Limitations for Birth Asphyxia

Maryland, like other states, has a statute of limitations in birth injury cases but it can vary depending on if the parent or child is making the claim, and both are able to file claims. Typically, people harmed by a birth injury have until their 21st birthday to file a lawsuit. An experienced malpractice lawyer will investigate your specific case, but it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you realize something may be wrong.

Filing A Birth Asphyxia Lawsuit in Maryland

Parents, and children, deserve justice for the wrongdoing by a doctor, nurse, or hospital, holding the wrongdoer accountable. You should consider hiring a lawyer who has experience handling cases like yours. A lawyer who hasn't handled similar cases before might not be able to give you the best advice about what to do next, or may miss something in the information gathered.

Wrongful death claims are also a possibility for the parents if the baby passed away due to birth asphyxia. A parent's life will be forever changed after suffering the traumatic and tragic loss of a baby at birth.

If you think that your baby was harmed, or died, due to birth asphyxia, contact experienced Maryland birth injury law offices today. Our experienced team of attorneys will leave no stone unturned when gathering evidence to prove negligence.

Call today for a free consultation to learn more. Our phones are available 24/7.

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Aaron Blank Esq
Date Published: March 20, 2022
Aaron Blank is a patient safety advocate who holds the healthcare system responsible when it fails. He keeps businesses accountable if they choose profits over the safety of the community, and he ensures car insurance companies pay their fair share for the harm that reckless drivers cause. Aaron and his proficient legal team bring an approach based on dedication, guidance, and compassion through the difficult process of pursuing serious injury claims. He has dedicated his career to fighting for injury victims to recover losses from medical expenses, lost income, loss of enjoyment of life, or the loss of a loved one.
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This website is by Blank Kim P.C. d/b/a Maryland Injury Guys. We have offices throughout Maryland with attorneys licensed to practice law in the state of  Maryland. Use of this site does not form an attorney-client relationship and information herein shall not be construed as legal advice. This website is to be considered as ATTORNEY ADVERTISING. Past settlement and verdict values are no guarantee of similar future outcomes. This firm may retain local counsel to prosecute cases. This website has not been approved by the Court of Appeals of Maryland or the Maryland State Bar. Cases may be co-counselled or referred to other firms for litigation.
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