Birth Injury Lawyers | Medical Error is the Most Common Cause of Birth Asphyxia, Norwegian Study Finds

Award-Winning Birth Injury Lawyers Helping Children affected by Birth Asphyxia & Birth Injuries such as Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), Cerebral Palsy, Seizures & Developmental Delays | Serving Michigan, Ohio, Washington, D.C. & All 50 States

Birth injury lawyers discuss how birth asphyxia can cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy, seizures & other birth injuries.Birth asphyxia is a medical condition that occurs when the baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen long enough to cause injury, usually brain injury in the form of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).  Asphyxia is one of the most common causes of birth injuries, which are injuries that occur during or near the time of delivery.  Birth asphyxia and resultant HIE can cause a child to have hypoxic-ischemic brain damage, which can cause lifelong problems, such as seizures, cerebral palsy, developmental delays and intellectual disabilities.

birth injury lawyers & cerebral palsy attorneysThe award-winning birth injury lawyers at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have helped hundreds of children affected by hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy. Michigan attorney Jesse Reiter, president of ABC Law Centers, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 28 years, and most of his cases involve hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy.  Partners Jesse Reiter and Rebecca Walsh are currently recognized as two of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2015, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best medical malpractice law firms in the nation.  The attorneys at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).  In fact, Jesse is one of only 2 attorneys in Michigan to have been elected Chair of the BTLG.

If your child experienced a birth injury such as HIE, seizures, cerebral palsy or any other long-term condition, contact Reiter & Walsh today at 888-419-2229.  Our award-winning attorneys are available 24/7 to speak with you.


Results of a 15 year Norwegian study indicate that human error is the most common cause of birth asphyxia.  Inadequate fetal monitoring, lack of clinical skills, noncompliance with clinical guidelines, and failure to obtain senior medical assistance were the most common causes of medical error resulting in birth asphyxia.

Researchers were able to study negligence because in Norway, anyone who feels they have been harmed by a medical professional isMedical negligence during delivery can cause birth asphyxia & hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). encouraged to apply to a national “no blame” system for compensation.  Analysts examine medical records and expert assessments and determine if negligence caused the injury.  If so, compensation is awarded.  In the study, researchers analyzed birth asphyxia claims from 1994 – 2008.  A total of 315 claims were made and 161 of those claimants were awarded compensation.

In Norway, birth asphyxia is the most commonly compensated birth injury negligence claim.  Dr. Stine Andreasen, a researcher involved in the study, stated that although fetal brain injury is uncommon during childbirth, “when it occurs the effects are devastating.”

Andreasen concluded that “[i]n most compensated cases, poor fetal monitoring led to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the infant.  Training for midwives and obstetricians, along with high-quality audits, could help to reduce claims for compensation after birth asphyxia.”


Birth asphyxia occurs when something affects the amount of oxygen being delivered to the baby.  In the womb (uterus), the baby receives her oxygen in the form of oxygen-rich blood being delivered to her from the mother, through vessels in the womb and placenta, and then through the umbilical cord into the baby’s body.  Anything that affects the mother’s oxygenation or impedes the vessels in the womb, placenta or umbilical cord can decrease the supply of oxygen going to the baby.  Examples of delivery complications that can cause birth asphyxia include umbilical cord problems, such as a prolapsed cord or the cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck and placental abruption, which is when the placenta tears away from the womb.  If the mother has a very low or high blood pressure, this will affect blood flow in the utero-placental circulation and will therefore impact how much oxygen-rich blood is delivered to the baby. Birth asphyxia often causes hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can result in a child being affected by cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, developmental delays and other birth injuries.


In the Norwegian study, improper fetal monitoring accounted for half of all compensated birth asphyxia claims.  When a mother is admitted to a labor and delivery unit, it is the standard of care to begin continuously monitoring the baby’s heart rate with a fetal heart monitor.  The monitor shows the baby’s heart rate in response to contractions.  When a baby starts to become deprived of sufficient oxygen, she will be in distress and her heart tracings will be deemed non-reassuring.  When this occurs, the baby should be delivered immediately to prevent brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation, in most cases.  A C-section delivery is the fastest and safest way to deliver a baby who is in distress.  Failure to recognize non-reassuring tracings or failure to notify the physician when these tracings are occurring are common causes of a baby being left in oxygen-depriving conditions for too long.  A breakdown in communication among the medical staff often results in the physician being notified of fetal distress too late.  Sometimes, the hospital is short staffed and the physician is unable to perform a C-section in a timely manner.  Other times, the physician and medical team simply fail to act with urgency when non-reassuring heart tracings are occurring.  The team may spend too much time testing the mother and baby or trying to perform a vaginal birth when one is not forthcoming.  Or, there may be nobody present that can adequately identify abnormal fetal heart tracings, which requires a lot of skill.

Events during labor and delivery that can cause birth asphyxia sound frightening.  However, with proper fetal monitoring and the ability to perform a prompt C-section delivery, the baby can quickly be delivered as soon as distress occurs.  Permanent injuries caused by asphyxia can then be avoided.

Listed below are events that can cause asphyxia during or near the time of delivery.

Causes of Birth Asphyxia


Birth asphyxia can cause a child to have the following conditions:

These conditions can cause lifelong problems for the child.  HIE is the most common cause of seizures in a newborn, and seizures can cause further brain injury.  Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of disability in childhood, and many children with cerebral palsy have to struggle with movement.  Due to the grave consequences that can occur when a baby experiences birth asphyxia, it is imperative that the medical team properly monitor the mother and baby during labor and delivery.  A mother in labor should not hesitate to ask if the medical personnel assisting in her labor and delivery have passed proficiency exams in fetal heart tracing interpretation.  In addition, the mother should ask if the medical team has the ability to quickly perform a C-section delivery if her baby starts to suffer from fetal distress.  And it is always a good idea to make sure someone skilled at fetal heart rate interpretation is present at all times during the birth process.


If your baby suffers from HIE, PVL, cerebral palsy, seizures, developmental delays or any other lifelong condition, contact the award winning birth injury lawyers at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers.  Our firm is unique in that we focus solely on birth injury law and have been practicing in this area for almost 3 decades.

Award-winning birth injury lawyers helping chidren who were victims of medical errorsReiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is currently recognized as one of the best medical malpractice law firms in the nation by U.S. News and World Report 2015, and the partners of the firm, Jesse Reiter and Rebecca Walsh, are recognized as two of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by the publication.  In fact, U.S. News and World Report has given Jesse the honor of being one of the “Best Lawyers in America” every year since 2008. The birth injury lawyers at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).

The birth injury lawyers at Reiter & Walsh help children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and they give personal attention to each child and family they represent. Our nationally recognized birth injury firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case.  Email or call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation.  Our firm’s award-winning birth injury lawyers are available 24 / 7 to speak with you.


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