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What happens after an emergency birth could change the future

Your obstetrician could describe any number of scenarios where your birth experience could turn into an emergency for your unborn child. Some of those scenarios could result in brain damage that will change the course of your child's future forever.

Throughout your labor and delivery, doctors and nurses ought to monitor you closely for any possible emergencies. Your baby is in a vulnerable position during this time. A lack of oxygen is one of the most dangerous since it could leave your child with brain damage. What your obstetrician does in this situation before, during and after delivery could make all the difference.

Observations that could indicate brain damage

As soon as it becomes clear that your unborn child is in distress, time is of the essence. Once your child is born, he or she needs a thorough examination to determine whether brain damage is a possibility. Doctors will look for the following signs in the first hours of your child's life:

  • Your baby's Apgar scores remain low even after the first 10 minutes of life.
  • A typical reaction to oxygen deprivation is the production of acid in the blood. Too much acid could indicate brain damage.
  • Your baby's neurological examination shows abnormalities, such as an abnormal heart rate or breathing pattern, decreased alertness or spontaneous movement, a "floppy" appearance, or the inability to suck.
  • Your baby's blood work indicates injury to the heart, liver or kidneys.

These signs may mean your newborn will need to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit. He or she may undergo treatments such as cooling therapy in order to minimize the potential for life-altering brain damage.

The critical six-hour window

Things tend to move fast when a baby exhibits signs of possible brain damage due to a lack of oxygen, and there is a good reason for it. The first six hours of your baby's life are the most crucial for halting the progression of brain damage because your child has the ability to "bounce back" at this point. Once that window closes, your child's body will not have the same restorative power.

One treatment showing significant promise is cooling therapy in which doctors cool your baby's body in order to inhibit the production and release of toxic chemicals into his or her brain, which is what leads to brain damage under these circumstances. Your child's brain may be able to handle the first wave of toxins, but once doctors restore oxygen and blood flow, a second wave of toxic chemicals could prove damaging unless stopped.

If things don't go as planned

When things go right and your child receives the best care possible, the odds of recovery are good. However, when your doctors and nurses fail to provide you and your baby with the appropriate standard of care, your child's future could be altered forever. Under these circumstances, it may be possible that your newborn was the victim of medical malpractice.

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2055 Woodside Rd., Suite 155
Redwood City, CA 94061

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