Breech Presentation and Birth Asphyxia

Breech presentation and birth asphyxia (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy)

What Is Breech Presentation?

A breech presentation is when the baby’s legs or buttocks are positioned to exit the birth canal first.  There are four different breech positions.

  • Frank breech: This is when the baby’s buttocks present first, and her legs are flexed at the hip and extended at the knees, with the feet near the ears.
  • Complete breech: In this position, the baby’s hips and knees are flexed so that the baby is sitting cross-legged, with feet beside the buttocks.
  • Footling breech: In footling position, one or both feet come first, with the buttocks at a higher position than the feet.
  • Kneeling breech: This is when the baby has one or both legs extended at the hips and flexed at the knees.

Managing the Delivery of a Baby in Breech Presentation

Sometimes a breech presentation resolves itself and the baby ends up in the head-first position.  These babies still require close monitoring, however, because they are at an increased risk of going back into a breech position. When a baby is in a breech presentation, a C-section is the safest way to deliver them, and in most types of breech positions, a C-section delivery is required.  A breech presentation puts the baby at risk of having numerous problems, including a compressed umbilical cord, head trauma, brain bleeds, birth asphyxia and conditions such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can cause seizures and cerebral palsy.

Risks of Breech Presentation

Very serious complications can occur in breech position, such as the umbilical cord being compressed during delivery, which can cause the baby to be partially or completely cut off from their supply of oxygen-rich blood.  Umbilical cord compression can be caused by a prolapsed cord, which occurs when the cord descends in front of the baby in the birth canal, or a nuchal cord, which is when the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck.

A baby is also more likely to experience traumatic injury during a vaginal breech delivery.  As the baby’s head passes through the birth canal, there is an increased risk of trauma to the skull due to the head’s position.  The spine and spinal cord can also become injured if the physician does not properly position the baby during birth.  In addition, attempts to position the baby can cause brain bleeds and hemorrhages, especially if the head gets caught in the birth canal.  These traumatic injuries can cause HIE, cerebral palsy, seizures and other birth injuries.

Sometimes forceps are used to help deliver the baby’s head.  This is a risky delivery instrument that looks like a pair of salad tongs.  If the forceps are not properly placed on the baby’s head, the head can be compressed, spinal cord injury can occur, and vessels in the brain can be torn, causing brain bleeds, hemorrhages, clots and strokes, all of which can cause cerebral palsy.

About ABC Law Centers

ABC Law Centers was established to focus exclusively on birth injury cases. A “birth injury” is any type of harm to a baby that occurs just before, during, or after birth. This includes issues such as oxygen deprivation, infection, and trauma. While some children with birth injuries make a complete recovery, others develop disabilities such as cerebral palsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, epilepsy and others.

It is considered medical malpractice if a birth injury or a related disability could have been prevented with proper care. Your child could have their lifelong treatment, care, and other crucial resources covered by a birth injury case settlement. 

If you believe you may have a birth injury case for your child, please contact us today to learn more. We are happy to hear your story and answer your questions free of any obligation or charge, even if you decide not to pursue a legal case with us. If you do, you would pay nothing throughout the entire legal process unless we win. 

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