Lack of oxygen supply at birth, or oxygen deprivation during or around the time of birth, increases the risk that the baby will suffer from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or birth asphyxia. This is a condition in which the baby suffers from oxygen deprivation around the time of birth, leading to a number of long-term health effects, not least among which is brain damage. According to new studies, this oxygen deprivation at birth does not have to be at high levels to result in long-term neurological effects.
The research was conducted by scientists at University College Cork, and analyzed the brainwaves of 60 babies who were diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy at birth. The analysis indicated that even in those cases where the birth asphyxia was at mild levels, the baby did suffer from long-term mental and other health problems. Specifically, there were developmental delays, concentration problems, learning difficulties and other problems as the child progressed in age.
According to the study, between 18% and 20% of babies who suffered from mild birth asphyxia suffered from learning behavioral difficulties, autism, speech delays, and other disorders at the age of five. In cases of moderate as well as mild asphyxia, children suffered from an overall lower IQ score, a lower ability to process information, and poor memory.
A baby’s brain can survive without oxygen for a little period of time just before or during the birth process, but if the deprivation of oxygen continues for a longer period of time, there is damage to essential tissues of the brain. In fact, this condition is a major cause of death among infants.
If the oxygen deprivation has been severe, then the brain damage may be too, and the child may have long-term mental and other impediments. Typically, these problems include epilepsy, attention disorders, developmental delays, motor impairment, and cognitive impairment. Birth asphyxia is often linked to cases of cerebral palsy, although there are other factors including complications during birth, or premature birth that could also cause cerebral palsy.
The information that even mild oxygen deprivation contributes to long-term neurological and mental health effects, should concern doctors and parents. It also indicates the need for therapeutic strategies soon after birth, in order to mitigate the damage even in cases of mild oxygen deprivation. For instance, in case of moderate birth asphyxia, doctors often use a therapeutic cooling technique in order to reduce the risk of damage. The researchers believe that similar procedures should also be used in the case of newborns who suffer from mild asphyxia.
The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent victims of medical negligence across Indiana.