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Birth asphyxia and the causes you should know about

Birth asphyxia is caused when a baby, either before, during or after birth, does not receive enough oxygen. There are several causes of birth asphyxia including problems with the umbilical cord, like having it wrap around the child's neck, high or low blood pressure in the mother, a blocked airway, a very difficult or long delivery or too little oxygen in the mother' blood during or before birth. If a baby is anemic, his or her cells may not be able to carry enough oxygen and could cause asphyxia as well.

It's normal for birth asphyxia to happen in around one out of every 1,000 full-term births. Asphyxia itself can be severely damaging or deadly if it's not treated in time, and the extent of injury depends on how fast a child is treated.

Children who suffer mild or moderate asphyxia may be able to recover completely, but babies who went longer without oxygen may be left with permanent injuries. Developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, impaired sight, organ failure and even death can result from a long enough time without oxygen.

Your doctor should monitor you and your child before, during and after delivery to make sure your child receives enough oxygen. Infants with birth asphyxia can be treated in most cases, but quick thinking and immediate treatment must be given to help keep the child alive or to reduce the effects of the reduced oxygen levels in the body. If your medical provider doesn't take steps to help your child in an emergency situation and your child is left with injuries, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: Seattle Children's Hospital, "Birth Asphyxia," accessed July 26, 2016

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