Few things in life are as emotional as the birth of a baby. It’s usually a joyful occasion that is celebrated. In some cases, however, the birth can have complications. According to the American Heart Association, about ten percent of babies require resuscitation efforts at birth. Which is why medical health professionals must be prepared to handle resuscitation appropriately — because if it is not, the consequences to the baby can be catastrophic.
Why is Resuscitation Needed?
In many cases, after delivery, a baby exhibits normal functioning including a good respiratory effort, strong heartbeat, and good muscle tone. But in other instances, a newborn needs some level of resuscitation.
Various factors can play a role in a baby needing resuscitation after birth. For example, some babies may have problems breathing due to immature lung development. Babies who aspirate meconium may also have respiratory distress. Meconium is a baby’s first stool, and it sometimes occurs in utero shortly before birth. If a baby inhales the meconium, it can lead to breathing problems.
During delivery, the umbilical cord can become compressed, which can lead to decreased oxygen to the baby. If the cord compression is not recognized, it can be life-threatening to the baby.
What is Involved in Infant Resuscitation?
The goal of infant resuscitation after delivery is to provide adequate perfusion and oxygenation to the baby’s brain as quickly as possible. When an infant is not breathing sufficiently to maintain circulation to the heart and brain, death can occur. Medical staff needs to act swiftly and efficiently to recognize the need for resuscitation. Infant resuscitation procedures may include:
- Warm, dry and stimulate: The first steps in neonatal resuscitation involve stimulating, warming and drying the baby. Stimulating involves rubbing the babies back and flicking the feet.
- Provide oxygen: In instances where a baby has spontaneous breathing but is not maintaining adequate oxygen levels, administration of supplemental oxygen is required.
- Suction the airway: Amniotic fluid can block the airway. Suctioning the baby’s mouth and nose may be helpful to improve breathing.
- Manual Ventilation: If a baby is not breathing spontaneously of if respirations are weak, manual ventilation with a bag-mask device is needed.
- CPR: In neonates, CPR is initiated if the heart rate drops below 60 beats per minute.
- Medication administration: During a resuscitation, medications may be administered, such as epinephrine. It’s critical to administer the correct dose.
- Mechanical ventilation: Various factors may indicate the need for a newborn to be placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing.
What Can Go Wrong?
Unfortunately, infant resuscitation does not always go as it should. There are several reasons why things can go wrong. Mistakes can occur right from the start. Failure to monitor a fetus during labor but before delivery can result in delayed detection of fetal distress. If fetal distress is not recognized, it can also lead to a delay of a C-section, which can be lifesaving.
Once the baby is born, if resuscitation efforts are delayed, it can also lead to serious complications. Neonatal guidelines indicate an algorithm to implement resuscitation steps. Medical personnel needs to react quickly and competently without delay. Failure to initiate a step, such as CPR or intubation, promptly can have serious consequences.
In other instances, improper resuscitation techniques are implemented. For example, mistakes can be made during intubation, which involves inserting a breathing tube into a baby’s trachea. Complications can occur, which include bleeding and perforation of the trachea.
The hospital may also be negligent. For example, the hospital is responsible for having qualified medical staff available during every delivery. Personnel involved in the care of an infant immediately after delivery should have training in neonatal resuscitation.
Appropriate equipment should also be readily available. The need for trained staff and equipment applies to all hospitals that deliver babies regardless of whether the facility has a neonatal intensive care unit. If the hospital fails to have qualified personnel available, they may be negligent.
Consequences of Infant Resuscitation Errors
The consequences of infant resuscitation errors or a negligent act are wide-ranging. Even mild mistakes can have a lasting impact. Errors during resuscitation, which result in a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain can lead to life-threatening health issues.
Even in cases where babies survive oxygen deprivation, they can have brain damage, which can cause permanent health problems. Conditions, such as developmental delays, cerebral palsy and physical disabilities can occur.
If you suspect that errors during infant resuscitation were made and your baby suffered harm, you should speak with an experienced birth injury lawyer. Please call our office at 312-527-4500 for a free consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys.