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Birth Asphyxia (HIE) and Its Long-Term Effects

Wagner Reese

Sadly, accidents can happen during childbirth that may leave devastating results. Birth asphyxia can occur when the baby suffers a lack of oxygen to the brain during birth. When this happens, the child may be left with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a serious brain injury that results when there is not enough oxygen or insufficient blood flow to the brain. HIE may result in devastating permanent injuries and disabilities. If your baby has suffered from these serious injuries during birth, it is important to understand the long-term effects they may experience.

What Causes Birth Asphyxia and HIE?

When a baby is still inside the woman, blood travels from the mother from the uterus to the placenta and through the umbilical cord to the baby. The blood vessels connecting the uterus and placenta, known as uteroplacental circulation, are similar to the way the lungs work in taking in and letting out gases. However, if there is some type of obstruction that prevents adequate blood flow from reaching the infant, it can affect the amount of oxygen the baby receives and lead to birth asphyxia. This can happen when the mother’s blood pressure drops, the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the child’s neck, or if there is a problem with the uterus.

Two problems, in particular, that can lead to birth asphyxia and HIE are umbilical cord compression or placental abruption. These situations call for immediate emergency medical intervention to prevent serious and often permanent to the baby.

Common Risk Factors for Birth Asphyxia and HIE

Certain problems can cause or increase the risk of birth asphyxia and HIE. They include the following:

  • Anesthesia mistakes that lead to blood pressure issues in the mother

  • Failure to deliver the baby quickly when there is evidence of fetal distress

  • Fetal stroke

  • Oligohydramnios or low amniotic fluid

  • Placental abruption or placenta previa

  • Preeclampsia or eclampsia

  • Premature birth

  • Ruptured uterus

  • Umbilical cord problems

  • Uterine hyperstimulation caused by medications like Cytotec or Pitocin

Long-Term Effects of Birth Asphyxia and HIE

Generally speaking, the specific level of severity of disabilities a child can suffer from birth asphyxia or HIE depends on certain factors, including the length of time they were oxygen deprived, the baby’s condition during the deprivation, and the severity of that deprivation. If a baby was deprived of oxygen for a very short time, they will likely have a milder level of disabilities than a child who was deprived for a longer time. The following are common long-term effects of birth asphyxia and HIE:

  • Blindness or visual impairment

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Epilepsy or seizure disorders

  • Learning disabilities that affect speech and thinking

  • Motor and behavioral development issues that affect coordination and walking

Additionally, HIE is the most common cause of neonatal seizures. When a baby experiences seizures while still in the womb, it can result in devastating, permanent injuries. Doctors and other healthcare professionals should be aware of problems affecting both the baby and mother so that they can provide appropriate treatment. For instance, if a baby has a breathing problem, they could require breathing machines and tubes. Likewise, a baby with a heart problem may require cardiac medication and monitoring of the heart, blood pressure, and breathing interventions to prevent problems from exacerbating and becoming long-term.

It is important to note that premature babies may not necessarily exhibit the same symptoms as full-term infants. They need to be monitored extremely closely.

Importance of Speaking with an Attorney

Because of the sheer devastation of the long-term effects of these medical conditions, we recommend seeking the help of an Indiana medical malpractice attorney who has experience fighting for the rights of babies and parents affected by birth asphyxia and HIE.

Contact the law offices of Wagner Reese at (888) 204-8440 to speak with an Indiana medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to obtain a free consultation.


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