On our blog, we like to simplify complex medical terms in order to help parents better understand their child’s diagnosis and/or potential factors in their child’s health. The term hypoxia is relatively short, yet it involves a very serious situation with a long-standing impact on the health of a child. Surrounding the ability of a child to access oxygen from its’ mother, hypoxia is an event that should be avoided at all costs, but also investigated thoroughly if it has taken place.
What is Hypoxia?
Hypoxia, in short, involves the reduction or deprivation of oxygen to a part of the body. When it comes to our focus on the term, hypoxia involves the cut-off of oxygen to the child during pregnancy or delivery of a child. When hypoxia occurs resulting in oxygen deprivation to the fetus, a condition known as Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) can occur that may lead to a wide range of problems for the child. As you would assume, a child’s easy access to things like oxygen are critical for proper development; when oxygen flow is cut off, significant problems, including brain injury, can occur.
So how does hypoxia or HIE occur? The main factor in the deprivation of oxygen to a child is the free movement and flow of nutrients and oxygen through the umbilical cord. When the umbilical cord deteriorates, is constricted or is otherwise damaged, the child can be significantly harmed in ways that include brain injury.
This brain injury, occurring before labor or during delivery, is sadly the basis for many Cerebral Palsy diagnoses. While each child’s CP can differ by severity, oftentimes the degree of their condition (and challenges faced in the years to come) can be tied to the amount of time they went without oxygen when HIE is the cause. This is why critical decisions need to be made when a child reveals signs of fetal distress during labor– every minute counts when the flow of oxygen is limited to your child.
Signs of hypoxia and HIE in a newborn include, among other things, his or her birth color and overall condition after delivery. Often captured in the APGAR scores provided by medical professionals after birth, the condition of your child often tells the story on what occurred in-utero. Combined with evidence of distress captured on fetal monitor strips, your child’s first moments may foreshadow the condition and challenges he or she will face for years to come.
The importance of oxygen to a child in the womb cannot be overstated. If your child suffered from a lack of oxygen and/or has been diagnosed with HIE, it is important that you request a Medical Legal Review to have a third party examine the medical care you and your child were provided. This analysis will thoroughly examine the care provided during the pregnancy, labor and post-delivery to ensure that the proper medical standards were followed and that you and your child received the care you both deserved.