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Doctor Assesses Newborn Hypoxia Risk
February 10, 2022

What Are the First Signs of Hypoxia in Newborns?

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy, also referred to as HIE, is a general term used to describe the result of a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the fetal brain. Hypoxia refers to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain and ischemia refers to a reduced supply of blood to the brain. The term encephalopathy describes any type of generalized brain dysfunction or injury.

Oxygen starvation at birth can cause brain injury leading to motor impairment and learning disabilities and intellectual deficits. When babies are deprived of oxygen, the tissue and cells within their bodies – especially their brains – begin to die. This causes permanent brain damage, and can potentially lead to permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy, seizures, cognitive functioning problems, and developmental delays.

If your baby was deprived of oxygen before, during, or after delivery and you think that medical negligence may have played a role, the Providence birth injury lawyers at Mandell, Boisclair & Mandell, Ltd. can help. Our attorneys have extensive experience in these complex cases. We are committed to helping families achieve the justice and compensation they deserve.

Signs of Hypoxia Before Birth

When a baby is deprived of oxygen before delivery, noticeable signs of distress may be identified within the womb. These signs may indicate that immediate intervention is required, such as an emergency cesarean section or intrauterine resuscitation, in which specific actions must be taken to increase the delivery of oxygen to the placenta and umbilical blood flow. 

If medical professionals notice any of the following issues, immediate measures should be taken to assess the risk of HIE and respond appropriately. These early signs of hypoxia before birth include abnormal fetal heart rate, as shown in electronic fetal monitoring and decreased fetal movement.

It may be possible to prevent HIE when these signs are first noticed. The baby’s health should be immediately assessed if these signs occur and a plan of how to proceed safely should be determined. Failure to respond to signs of distress appropriately can be negligence on the part of health care providers.

Signs of Hypoxia After Delivery

When hypoxia occurs, one or more of the following indicators may be identified shortly after birth:

  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Seizures
  • Low Apgar scores
  • State of abnormal consciousness (hyperalert or lethargic)
  • Acidemia (low pH in umbilical cord blood gas tests)
  • Organ problems (failure, damage)
  • Hypotonia (low muscle tone)
  • Coma

When any of the signs listed above are identified medical professionals should promptly take note of them and respond immediately. To determine whether therapeutic hypothermia should be administered, swift clinical assessments should be conducted on newborns presenting with signs of HIE.

Signs of Hypoxia During Early Childhood

In some cases of HIE, especially in newborns or young children with mild to moderate hypoxia, the signs of oxygen starvation are not present at the moment of birth. When this happens, HIE may not become evident until later, when one or more of the following signs emerge:

  • Hearing and visual impairments
  • Delayed growth
  • Seizure disorder
  • Delayed developmental milestones
  • Impaired motor function

If a parent notices any of the signs listed above, a doctor should be notified right away. With prompt medical care, doctors may be able to help the child maximize his or her current abilities.

When doctors fail to accurately assess a baby’s risk of hypoxia and subsequently miss the window to provide proper care, they may be held liable for medical malpractice.

Speak With A Providence Birth Injury Lawyer Today

If you believe medical negligence may have caused your baby or child to suffer brain damage, you need an experienced birth injury lawyer on your side. Birth injury cases are extremely complex and require the skill, resources, and specialized knowledge of an attorney with experience in these difficult cases. The legal team at Mandell, Boisclair & Mandell, Ltd. has a proven record of success in birth injury claims, and we are committed to holding negligent parties accountable for their actions.

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Contact us online or call (401) 204-1438 for a FREE initial consultation. We will listen to the details of your case and explain your rights and legal options. Our firm serves clients from Providence, Rhode Island, and other nearby areas.