Oxygen deprivation at birth, also known as birth asphyxia, is a significant risk for babies during the labor and delivery process. Lack of oxygen at birth can have long-term effects for the infant and his or her family. Hypoxia or anoxia can cause brain damage with long-term medical consequences.
Causes of Lack of Oxygen at Birth
Lack of oxygen at birth can be caused by several factors, or by a combination of unfortunate circumstances. The most common problems leading to oxygen deprivation include:
- Trauma to the infant in utero
- Placenta issues such as placental abruption or a ruptured placenta
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Nuchal cord
- Preeclampsia and eclampsia
- Excessive medication of the mother
- Recreational drug use by the mother
- Shoulder dystocia
- Prolonged and/or difficult labor
While some of the causes of oxygen deprivation may be out of the control of healthcare providers, obstetricians, midwives and gynecologists, your healthcare team is specially trained to manage labor and delivery, including recognizing problems. Failure to quickly recognize problems and provide solutions can result in significant damage to the infant’s body and brain.
Long-Term Effects of Lack of Oxygen at Birth
Lack of oxygen at birth can result in long-term effects that affect the entire family. This is especially true if there is a hypoxic ischemic injury, which involves a lack of both oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Infants suffering from oxygen deprivation often develop disabilities, such as:
- Cerebral palsy
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Behavioral problems
- Poor growth
- Nutritional deficiencies
Such conditions often require long-term specialized care including medication, occupational, physical and behavioral therapies, specialized educational methods and even home modification. These requirements can be financially and emotionally taxing for many families.
Financially, the lifetime costs for individuals with cerebral palsy and/or other intellectual disabilities are estimated to be close to $1 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Conditions such as autism and epilepsy also may require significant financial resources in order to maintain a functioning quality of life for the individual. Similarly, a cerebral palsy prognosis could require a lot of resources.
Unlike many illnesses, the consequences of oxygen deprivation most often last for a lifetime. Families facing this unfortunate circumstance who believe that medical negligence led to their child’s injuries should consider obtaining legal guidance about protection of their rights.
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