Birth Injury Malpractice Common Cause of Fetal Asphyxia

Ava Lawson | November 29th, 2013 | Posted in Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit News

Birth Injury Malpractice – Fetal Hypoxia, AsphyxiaHypoxia is defined as a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching body tissues. In the context of birth injuries, fetal hypoxia occurs when oxygen levels in the bloodstream are dangerously low. Infant asphyxia is the consequence of hypoxia, and often results in catastrophic harm to the baby, including permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy.

While such devastating birth injuries can occur due to several risk factors and preexisting medical conditions, new research shows that many instances are caused by medical errors before, during or shortly after the delivery. According to a Norwegian study published in the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology medical journal, 50 percent of all infant asphyxia cases studied were attributed to birth injury malpractice such as inadequate fetal monitoring.

The findings revealed that doctor error was the most common cause of birth asphyxia with half of all cases caused by poor fetal monitoring; 14% by lack of clinical knowledge; 11% attributed to non-compliance to medical guidelines; 10% by failure to ask for assistance from a senior health care provider, and 4% were mistakes in medication administration.

Signs and symptoms of fetal hypoxia

Medical professionals have a duty to monitor mother and baby for signs of distress and oxygen deprivation.

Common signs of fetal hypoxia normally include:

  • Erratic  or rapidly decelerating fetal heart rate
  • Low fetal heart rate
  • Lack of normal fetal movement

Risk factors for infant asphyxia

Prolonged oxygen deprivation to the fetus may be attributed to many factors such as a maternal condition or failure on the part of medical staff to properly assess and manage a difficult delivery.

Fetal oxygen levels may be negatively affected by the following:

  • Placental abruption
  • Low maternal oxygen levels
  • Low maternal blood pressure
  • Overstimulation of the uterus, often associated with Pitocin
  • Compression of the umbilical cord or other umbilical cord problems
  • Weak placental function associated with post-due babies

Consequences for the baby

Depending on the duration and severity of fetal hypoxia, the effects can range from a baby who is born with pale skin and a low heart rate, to an infant with breathing problems to irreversible brain damage such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which may later give rise to motor impairments, developmental delays, epilepsy and/or cerebral palsy.

In some situations where delivery room staff fail to perform a medically-necessary C-section, or manage shoulder dystocia in a prompt and correct manner, the baby is more at risk for low oxygen supplies, and potential trauma to brain cells.

Legal advice for birth injury victims

The birth injury malpractice attorneys at Balkin and Eisbrouch offer considerable experience investigating and trying cases involving fetal asphyxia and medical mistakes during delivery. Please contact our law offices for a free and confidential legal consultation, so we can help determine if medical negligence played a role in your child’s brain damage or other birth injuries.

We understand the emotional and economic hardships you may be facing, and offer compassionate support during your time of need. Since our network of lawyers work on a contingency basis, there is never any upfront cost to you, as we only collect compensation when you do.


  1. National Institutes of Health, Birth asphyxia and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, incidence and obstetric risk factors, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17823499

  2. Patient.co.uk, Fetal Distresshttp://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/fetal-distress

  3. Science Daily, Human Error Most Common Cause of Birth Asphyxia: Poor Fetal Monitoring in 50% of Cases, Norwegian Study Shows, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131118080918.htm