Expectant mothers rely on their doctors and other medical care providers to address complications during delivery. Luckily, most nurses, doctors, and other medical providers respond to emergencies during delivery and labor quickly enough to avert birth injuries.

However, sometimes doctors and other helping professionals during delivery or labor fail to act promptly to avert severe injuries. Perhaps they did not see the signs, or they did not expect complications and thus failed to respond fast enough. Or, it could be they negligently acted when providing care.

Some of the injuries to a baby are caused by hypoxia. If your baby suffered perinatal hypoxia injury due to negligence from doctors, you want to know what happened, the challenges you now face, and how you can address those challenges. Additionally, it is essential to sue the negligent medical provider for damages for the harm their negligence caused.

At Phoenix Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we work tirelessly to hold negligent health professionals liable and assist our clients in recovering the compensation they deserve. With our help, you can recover damages for your baby's suffering, care, pain, and medical expenses, among other damages caused by the malpractice. We are devoted to seeking justice for preventable birth injury victims and are ready to assist you in obtaining fair compensation.

Perinatal Hypoxia Overview

Oxygen is like the fuel of the brain. A baby requires an adequate, constant oxygen supply at the perinatal stage for their still-developing brain. Oxygenated blood reaches the baby in the womb via the umbilical cord and placenta until they are born and capable of breathing by themself.

However, the traumatic labor process may hinder the oxygenated blood supply, leading to hypoxia (insufficient oxygen supply) or asphyxia (complete oxygen deprivation). Either of these scenarios can lead to irreversible organ and brain damage, permanent disability, or death in the worst-case scenario.

How Perinatal Hypoxia Affects Newborns

Hypoxia, as explained above, refers to an insufficient oxygen supply, so the oxygen does not reach tissue. Perinatal is the period during and immediately after birth.

An infant can survive for only a short period if there is an insufficient oxygen supply. Usually, perinatal asphyxia and perinatal hypoxia cause approximately one-third of reported neonatal deaths. Children who survive but have received very little oxygen during the perinatal stage will likely suffer severe brain and neurological damage and organ impairment.

In the initial stages of the baby being deprived of oxygen, brain cells cease functioning and die. Other cells in the body may follow. When the blood supply is finally restored, oxygen flow may lead to further damage, like brain swelling. This occurrence is called reperfusion injury. An infant deprived of oxygen could display warning symptoms during the neonatal stage. The symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty waking from sleep, coma, or decreased consciousness.
  • Seizures.
  • Toes, fingers, and lips color changing to bluish.
  • Difficulty feeding or nursing.
  • Apnea (prolonged or abnormal pauses in breathing when sleeping).
  • Low Apgar score (a test administered to newborn babies to assess their physical condition).
  • Weak cry.
  • Organ dysfunction (liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart).
  • Hypotonia.

Eventually, the baby might end up sustaining permanent and severe cognitive and physical disabilities, including:

  • Hearing loss.
  • Cerebral palsy.
  • Mental retardation.
  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders.
  • Cortical blindness.
  • Behavioral disorders.
  • Cognitive impairment.
  • HIE (Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy).
  • Delayed growth and development.
  • Motor impairment.

Sadly, babies who do not die from hypoxia are susceptible to several disabilities that manifest throughout the early stages of their childhood. Usually, these babies are diagnosed with learning disabilities, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), object recognition issues, and problems with cognitive functions, like making decisions, planning, and problem-solving. 

Perinatal Hypoxia Causes

Hypoxia can happen during the neonatal period, during the childbirth process, or during the development of the fetus. Issues during the pregnancy period that could cause perinatal hypoxia are:

  • Issues with blood flow to the placenta.
  • Lung malformations.
  • Heart disease.
  • Maternal alcohol or drugs abuse.
  • Maternal diabetes.
  • Preeclampsia.
  • Placenta previa (placenta covering the mother's cervix).
  • Maternal infection, for example, chlamydia.

Problems during delivery and labor that can lead to hypoxia are:

  • Placental abruption (premature detachment of the placenta).
  • Umbilical cord-related problems.
  • Prolonged labor.
  • Breech or any other abnormal presentation.
  • Low blood pressure for the mother.
  • The baby inhaling the earliest stool (meconium) that has been released into fluids.
  • Cephalo-pelvic disproportion.

Post-delivery issues that can lead to hypoxia are:

  • Serious infections.
  • Serious heart or lung disease.
  • Extreme prematurity.
  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Respiratory failure.
  • Trauma to the brain or head.

Preventing Perinatal Hypoxia

Whether arising during pregnancy, the delivery process, or the neonatal period, most of these perinatal hypoxia causes are preventable with proper prenatal and postnatal care for the mother and child, so possible problems are diagnosed before or immediately after birth.

The initial forty-eight hours after the incident causing perinatal hypoxia are crucial in minimizing the injury to the baby. Among the ideal ways of preventing perinatal hypoxia and, therefore, preventing long-term or permanent impairment, include:

  • Promptly reviving an infant who seems hypoxic and administering treatment.
  • Suctioning the airway of the baby immediately after birth if it is likely that the baby inhaled meconium.
  • Employing excellent delivery techniques to release a cord around the baby's neck or other body parts that first become apparent during a vaginal delivery.
  • Taking immediate action, like performing a C-section or forceps delivery when monitoring shows fetal distress.
  • Avoiding the utilization of vacuum extraction or forceps unless entirely necessary, and if that is the case, using care and skill to prevent the baby from suffering a head injury.
  • Careful monitoring of the child and mother during delivery and labor.

Treating Perinatal Hypoxia

When perinatal hypoxia-related impairment has already occurred, prompt diagnosis followed by treatment is essential. Impairment caused by perinatal hypoxia requires immediate action. It is not a situation where the doctor can afford to wait to see what happens.

Applying regulated neonatal therapeutic hypothermia within six hours after delivery can minimize brain damage and death by 50 percent. The procedure entails cooling the infant with an ice cap and ice blankets to slow the damage to cellular responses as the medical professionals work to reinstate blood oxygen concentration to the standard level.

Liability In Perinatal Hypoxia

As an expectant woman, you are entitled to anticipate that your nurse-midwife, obstetrician, and other delivery and labor room staff in a birthing center or hospital have undergone rigorous training to closely monitor you plus your baby and act quickly if any sign of a health problem should arise.

Additionally, you should be capable of relying on the expertise of the doctor delivering your baby when conducting procedures such as vacuum extractions and forceps deliveries and addressing problems that involve potential meconium inhalation and the umbilical cord.

Lastly, you should expect that the hospital has neonatal specialists readily available to act promptly if a problem suddenly occurs that puts your baby's health or life in danger.

The obstetrician, nurse, or other medical providers will be deemed negligent if they do not uphold their obligation to give you or your child the appropriate level of care during the neonatal, delivery, and labor periods as a similar professional would and your baby is severely hurt consequently. Therefore, you may file a medical malpractice case seeking compensation.

Medical negligence instances that can lead to perinatal hypoxia include the following:

  • Failure to detect and treat perinatal hypoxia.
  • Impulsive vacuum extraction.
  • Failure or delay to conduct a C-section on time when the procedure is medically essential.
  • Failure to notice and correct umbilical cord issues, like a compressed or prolapsed umbilical cord.
  • Failing to notice abnormal fetal positioning, for example, a breech birth.
  • Negligent monitoring of the fetus.
  • Insufficient pregnancy monitoring.
  • Failure of a technician or nurse to communicate with the delivering doctor.
  • Failure to plan for an LGA (large-for-gestational-age) baby.
  • Failure to revive a newborn on time.
  • Negligent administration of Pitocin, leading to uterine rupture.

When negligence by medical professionals leads to hypoxia, it may have long-term or permanent consequences. Besides unexpected medical expenses and constant worries regarding their baby's future, parents suffer emotional pain knowing the medical professionals could have prevented the injury. And if the damage leads to death, the pain and suffering can be highly devastating.

What a Perinatal Hypoxia Medical Malpractice Claim Does

If your baby shows signs of hypoxia that may have occurred due to the negligence of a medical professional, you want to consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer. The lawyer will help you know the steps you can follow to hold the negligent party or parties liable and obtain compensation for your baby's injuries and the damages you incurred.

The negligent act that led to your baby's injury may appear evident to you. Although medical malpractice-related cases are often complicated. Therefore, it is in your best interest to involve an experienced lawyer in your case right after you learn of the likelihood of a medical professional being negligent.

In Arizona, you must prove the following four elements after filing your medical malpractice case to show a party was negligent:

  • Duty—you should prove that the liable physician or other medical provider owed you the duty to offer quality care that any reasonably prudent healthcare provider specialized in the same field would have offered under similar circumstances.
  • The breach of duty—after showing the medical provider owed you a duty of care, you should then show they breached that duty by failing to provide the expected level of care.
  • Causation—once you prove breach of duty, you must demonstrate the healthcare provider's negligence in falling short of their obligation led to your baby suffering resulting injury
  • Damages—lastly, you must prove the injury your child sustained due to medical negligence made you incur damages. The damages may be non-economic, such as loss of enjoyment of life, pain, and suffering, and economic, like future, current, and previous medical expenses.

If you prove these four facts successfully, you may recover the maximum compensation amount for the recoverable damages under Arizona personal injury law.

Types of Damages Recoverable in Perinatal Hypoxia Cases

Under Arizona statute, you and your baby may have the right to recover compensatory (non-economic and economic) damages for:

  • Medical costs, including future, current, and past expenses.
  • Care, therapy, and rehab costs.
  • Lost wages.
  • Mental anguish.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Physical suffering and pain.
  • Reduced earning capacity.
  • Disfigurement.
  • Permanent or temporary disability.
  • Special schooling.
  • Other recoverable damages under Arizona law that are specific to your case.

Proving a doctor's or other medical provider's negligence resulted in your baby suffering an injury and you and the baby incurring damages is an intricate legal process. The process requires a detailed comprehension of the case facts, quality expert testimonies, expertise as an attorney, and experience in medical malpractice matters.

The Statute of Limitations for Arizona Perinatal Hypoxia Cases

In Arizona, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is two years, counted from when the negligent incident occurred, was detected, or should reasonably have been detected. This means a medical malpractice victim has a two-year timeframe, making filing a suit critically important and time-sensitive for successful results.

However, there are a few exceptions to the two-year timeframe. Arizona's discovery rule allows a victim to file a lawsuit after the two-year timeframe if they discover the negligence later.

Your lawyer can use the discovery rule to prove you were unaware of the medical malpractice problem until you discovered it. Once exercised and reasonable diligence is established, the case proceeds despite the two-year deadline already elapsing.

Other unique exceptions can apply if the complainant is a child or mentally disabled. In these cases, the statute of limitations clock will pause. Children have until two years after celebrating their 18th birthday to bring a lawsuit.

How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help

Perinatal hypoxia cases are usually challenging to win since there has to be irrefutable evidence that hypoxia indeed happened. Hiring a lawyer is advantageous as they know how to help you obtain the damages you deserve. A lawyer can:

Help You Identify All Responsible Parties

There could be more than one liable party in your case. For example, the obstetrician, nurse, and medical facility could all be to blame for the injury your baby suffered. Identifying all the liable parties will maximize your chances of recovering the maximum compensation.

Collect Evidence

Your lawyer can help you collect documentation and evidence from your doctor and the medical facility and gather medical reports from the labor and delivery team. Evidence is required to prove that perinatal hypoxia indeed occurred, and it should be collected as soon as possible before it disappears.

Since you are a new mom, you need time to recover and care for your baby. Therefore, you may lack time to gather the evidence required for the case. An attorney can help you with the process, ensuring the evidence is quality enough to obtain the best possible outcome.

Negotiate With Insurance Adjusters

Unlike you, medical malpractice lawyers have experience dealing with medical providers and insurers; therefore, when you retain one, you will not have to deal with them in person. In fact, after you acquire a lawyer, medical providers and insurers should no longer contact you directly.

Instead, they must communicate with you through your lawyer. This helps you relieve stress, as you do not have to be concerned about missing the filing deadline or making statements that could hurt your claim.

The insurance adjuster will also not pressure you into accepting less than you deserve. Although your lawyer will share all settlement offers with you to review, they will also advise you on whether you should accept the offer or if they know you deserve a much higher settlement amount. Insurers will try to convince you to agree to the lowest compensation amount, but an attorney will fight for your best interests.

Valuate Your Damages

Your lawyer can help you determine the damages you are entitled to. They will review your case to establish the economic and non-economic damages you should recover and whether you also have the right to recover punitive damages. After that, they will evaluate the financial compensation you should receive collectively to ensure the insurance company pays to the last coin.

Accelerate the Claims Process

A lawyer can help you file your claim and expedite the process. Pursuing a lawsuit is difficult, mainly if you are inexperienced in lawsuit matters or the law. Hiring an attorney is beneficial if you wish to pursue a perinatal hypoxia case, as they know all the various aspects of seeking compensation, like hiring expert witnesses, which can make it quicker to settle your claim.

Find an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer Near Me

If you suspect your baby suffered the repercussions of being deprived of oxygen during birth and it was due to the negligence of a medical facility or provider, know that you are not alone. You should consult a skilled attorney to determine the way forward.

At the Phoenix Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we have lawyers with decades of experience representing parents with similar cases. Our lawyers have experience as doctors and are confident in challenging a large insurer or hospital to uncover the truth about your child's injury.

They will review your case and advise on whether or not you have a valid claim to recover compensation for your baby's injuries. If you have a claim, they will work tirelessly to seek accountability and the compensation amount you deserve. Call us at 602-641-9589 for a free consultation if you have a case in Phoenix.