Birth Injury Prevention

Michigan birth trauma attorney discusses birth injury prevention for problems such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)

The birth of a baby is a joyous experience. Most of the time, babies are born healthy. Sometimes, however, something goes wrong during or near the time of birth and the baby suffers a permanent injury, such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, hydrocephalus, periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) or an intellectual disability.

Much of the time, birth injuries are preventable. During delivery, they often occur when signs of fetal distress on the baby’s heart monitor are not recognized or appreciated. Failure to act when signs of distress are present can cause the baby’s brain to have a lack of oxygen for too long, which can cause a brain injury and permanent brain damage. When a baby is showing signs of distress, or the mother is exhibiting signs of an ominous condition, such as placental abruption or uterine rupture, the physician must deliver the baby very quickly, in most cases. Often, a cesarean (C-section) delivery is the safest and fastest way to deliver a baby who is in distress or whose mother has a serious medical issue.

Babies may also be in stressful conditions prior to delivery. Physicians are supposed to perform periodic tests on the mother and baby to make sure the baby is developing normally, has a good heart beat and a normal heart beat in response to stress, and that the amniotic fluid (fluid in the womb) is normal. When a pregnancy has been labeled high risk, these prenatal tests must be performed more frequently, and the mother should be referred to a maternal-fetal specialist.

To help ensure the health of a baby, it is very important for the mother to select a good obstetrician, have regular prenatal visits and be able to recognize signs of distress in her unborn baby. Good prenatal care is crucial, and the obstetrician and other specialists can help the mother with a prenatal care plan. Tests used to assess the health of a baby – including the heart rate – are very advanced and there is almost no excuse for physicians and the medical team to be unaware that a baby is in distress.

Birth injury prevention after birth also is very important. At birth, the baby experiences a fundamental change in her cardio-respiratory status. Most babies adjust very well, but sometimes babies need help breathing and are put on a breathing machine called a ventilator. The medical team must be very careful in adjusting settings on the ventilator because if certain settings are too high, the baby can develop permanent brain damage or eye problems and blindness. If certain settings are not properly adjusted, the baby may not receive enough oxygen or her lungs may get injured, which can also lead to brain injury.

Sometimes babies experience apnea, which is when they have periods in which they stop breathing. Each period may last 20 seconds, and some can last minutes. If physicians fail to recognize and properly treat apnea, the baby may have long term oxygen deprivation and oxygen fluctuations that can cause brain injury such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

Other times, a baby may be anemic, which means the blood has insufficient capacity to transport oxygen throughout the body. It also is common for a baby to have jaundice, which means that bilirubin levels are too high. If anemia or significantly elevated bilirubin levels are not properly treated, permanent brain damage such as cerebral palsy and kernicterus can occur.

Apnea, anemia and high bilirubin levels are very easy to treat and there is no excuse for a baby to suffer an injury due to insufficient treatment.

Birth Injury Prevention


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