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The impacts of birth asphyxia and reperfusion injury on newborns

If you have been reading our overview on preterm delivery, you are familiar with "hypoxia," a term used to describe a condition marked by oxygen deprivation in the brain that occurs during childbirth. Responsible for this low oxygen level is birth asphyxia, which can occur before, during and even after childbirth. While you may not initially suspect that your loved one has been impacted by this condition, it is important to monitor your child for symptoms after delivery because the effects of birth asphyxia can be felt weeks after the baby's birth.


As with other birth injuries we have documented, birth asphyxia can take place during childbirth. Factors that can impact oxygen levels include length of delivery, the mother's blood pressure or the baby's oxygen access. It is important to note that after delivery birth asphyxia can also occur. After the child is born, the baby may experience asphyxia due to reduced blood count, low blood pressure or respiratory problems. When oxygen is severely limited in a newborn, birth asphyxia can occur in two stages: upon initially losing oxygen access and after having that oxygen restored. When the baby's brain is deprived of oxygen, her cells are impacted. After oxygen is reintroduced to the body, toxins are released from the damaged cells. This secondary impact of birth asphyxia is called "reperfusion injury" and can take place days after the delivery.


After the child is born, she will be monitored by a nurse to ensure that the baby's vital statistics are considered normal. If your child is suffering from reperfusion injury at home, however, these symptoms could have been missed in the delivery room and may not become manifest until weeks later. These are symptoms that indicate your child is not well: bluish tinge in lips or skin, shallow breathing or low blood pressure.

Long-term impact

Reduced oxygen flow and cell toxicity can impact your child's physical and emotional development. If blood oxygen level is not maintained, the body's organs can become injured.

While you may have had a healthy pregnancy, carried your child to term and delivered a baby of average weight and height, factors surrounding the delivery process may have impacted your child's access to oxygen. If you believe your child has suffered from birth asphyxia or reperfusion injury, you should consult a lawyer to determine your options.

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