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New Hope for Brain Damage Recovery After Oxygen Deprivation at Birth
Around 450,000 babies are born preterm in the U.S. every year, according to the Children’s National Research Institute. Premature babies are often deprived of oxygen caused by immature lungs or irreversible birth injuries. Inadequate oxygen levels can decrease a newborn’s blood pressure, heart rate, and limiting the blood flow to vital organs and tissue. When this happens, irreversible neurological or cellular damage can occur and lead to permanent deficits and disabilities such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and vision and hearing loss.

Premature babies and those with brain injuries caused by birth have typically been treated with minimal handling, avoidance from stressful stimuli, including receiving care and treatments in new, quiet private family rooms. A new study led by researchers at Children’s National Hospital, published online on February 19, 2020, in “Nature Communications,” could lead to new treatments for children affected by brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation at birth. The recent study suggests that when oxygen-deprived infants are faced with opportunities for optimal brain development through an “enriched” environment, it may result in a more positive growth and healing of the brain.

What Makes for an “Enriched” Environment?

Medical Negligence

As U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Soar, Injuries to Baby May Follow

According to Harvard Medical School, expecting moms in the United States are now 50 percent more likely to die in childbirth than their mothers. The rate had alarmingly more than doubled from 10.3 per 100,000 live births in 1991 to 23.8 in 2014, and experts agree, the majority of these deaths could be avoided. These numbers rank the U.S. as the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world, positioning health care providers to blame for their failures and carelessness in keeping mothers and babies safe during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum stages.

Pregnancy-Related Deaths Are Mostly Preventable

Many women are provided with various medications designed to help induce labor. These drugs may contribute to injuries to the baby during birth. Problems may occur both in the mother and infant that could be serious or even dangerous. Long-term health issues could occur due to mistakes made during labor or delivery.

Reasons for Inducing Labor

There are a number of reasons why a doctor may want to induce labor. When the baby is overdue, the doctor may induce labor so the baby does not suffer distress or become too large. Most often, labor inducing drugs are provided when the mother’s labor is stalled. This can happen, for example, after being given an epidural. Epidurals or other pain-relieving medications can sometimes slow labor. Then, labor inducing drugs are necessary to avoid distress to the mother or baby.

Parents expect that their baby will be born healthy. While that happens in most situations, unfortunately, some babies are injured during birth. When this happens, parents, and other family members, are probably devastated. Sadly, many of these injuries could have been prevented had the medical team had not been negligent. When the injuries are serious, they may require quite a bit of ongoing medical treatment, and, in some cases, lifelong care. Parents may be entitled to compensation for the injuries and damages caused by the doctor.

Birth Injury Cases

If the doctor, nurse, or other member of the medical profession was negligent, they should be held responsible for the injuries. Medical negligence usually falls under the general category of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor does something, or fails to do something, that he knows could be harmful to the patient. Birth injuries are often caused by a mistake the doctor makes during labor or delivery of the infant.  

Most babies are born in the United States without any injuries or complications. However, there are a number of infants who are not so lucky. In a small number of cases, infants are injured during birth. Some of these injuries may be minor and the infant will make a full recovery, but a portion of infants will sustain long-term or permanent harm. One of the common types of problems that can occur to an infant during delivery is an injury caused by an assisted birth. Vacuum extraction is often used by doctors to assist with difficult deliveries.

How the Vacuum Extractor Works

It is necessary to understand how vacuum extraction works to gain insight into the types of injuries that it can cause. The vacuum extractor uses suction to assist in pulling the baby out during difficult deliveries. According to the FDA, there can be risks in using a vacuum extractor, especially when used incorrectly. The baby cannot be less than 34 weeks gestation and the baby should not be too large for the mother’s pelvis. The mother must be fully dilated and the baby has to be in the correct position. If any of these problems exist, there is a higher likelihood of injury to the baby.
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The birth of a child is supposed to be a joyful experience; however, it can become an upsetting event if the child is born with a birth injury. It is estimated that approximately 6 to 8 infants out of every 1,000 suffer from some type of birth injury in the United States. This equates to more than 25,000 children each year. Injuries in infants may range drastically, from minor to very severe. Minor injuries are those that will be relatively easy to treat and the child will recover completely with no long-term harm. More severe injuries could take months or years of medical treatment and rehabilitation, and sometimes the injuries are disabling.

Evaluating Infants at Birth

All infants are evaluated at birth using a system called the APGAR scale. Doctors or other medical professionals can quickly assess an infant’s overall condition by evaluating the baby’s color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and respiration. The assessment is done a minute after birth and again at five minutes. A perfect score in each category is ten. If a baby has a score lower than 7 in any category it indicates that the infant requires additional assessment and monitoring. The APGAR test is just one way to evaluate a baby. Other testing and observation is needed to further diagnose a baby’s condition.
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The birth of a child is one of the most joyful experiences of a parent’s life. Yet, for one mother, the joy was quickly replaced with heartbreak when her newborn infant suffered a serious birth injury. The mother filed a lawsuit against the hospital, doctor, and several medical groups. The lawsuit is seeking a trial by jury and damages of more than $50,000.

Hypoxic Ischemic Injury

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, HIE, is brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen (asphyxia) to the brain during labor or delivery. It is estimated that HIE effects an estimated 20 out of every 1,000 births. There is an increased instance of HIE in premature babies. HIE is a medical emergency that requires immediate care and treatment. Unfortunately, many infants suffering from HIE die as a result. HIE by asphyxiation is the most common cause of infant death in the United States, and is the most common reason for serious disabilities in infants.

Premature birth is a serious problem for newborns. A premature birth can be the cause of many medical conditions and could be dangerous. Premature births can also create complications during the labor and delivery, making it more likely that a birth injury could occur. A recent study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH, concludes that there is a link between premature births and harmful particulates in the air. This new finding shows that those living in the most polluted areas have the highest incidence of preterm deliveries.

Premature Births

The standard pregnancy term is about 40 weeks and any babies born after week 37 are counted as full-term. Preemies born prior to 37 weeks may have very significant medical issues due to underdevelopment. Those infants closer to full term are usually more likely to survive and have fewer medical and developmental problems than those younger infants. Some of the problems that can occur with premature babies include breathing or lung function problems, digestion problems, impaired hearing or vision, and delayed growth including behavioral development. Premature infants are also at higher risk for birth injuries.
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A Cesarean birth, also called a c-section, is a procedure done to surgically remove a baby from the uterus. It may be done instead of a vaginal birth for a number of reasons. For a time, c-sections were becoming quite common and were utilized for a number of reasons, many of which were not medically necessary. Today, there is concern regarding the overuse of c-sections. While they may sometimes be used improperly, c-sections are still necessary in a number of medical situations. C-sections can sometimes prevent some dangerous problems that could cause birth injuries.

Medical Reasons for C-Sections

There are a number of reasons that a c-section should be utilized during the birth of a child. According to the March of Dimes, pregnancy complications may indicate that a c-section should be considered. Some complications include:

The birth of a baby is one of the happiest days in a parent’s life. Yet, there are times when problems happen that overshadow the happiness of the day. One of the most common types of birth injuries is a fracture. Thousands of children and adults are treated every year for bone fractures or breaks. Most of these injuries heal within weeks and do not cause permanent damage. However, when an infant sustains a fracture the outcome may be quite different. Many fractures can be severe and dangerous in newborns and sometimes they may result in lifelong damage. When an infant suffers a fracture during birth the injury may be due to the careless or negligent actions of the doctor.

Types of Newborn Fractures
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