Hypoxia is a lack of adequate oxygen supply through the arteries. Hypoxia can affect the whole body or only parts of the body. If oxygen supply is low because of source, rather than arterial obstructions, it is referred to as hypoxemia. If oxygen supply is completely cut off, it is referred to as anoxia. However, both of these are sometimes called hypoxia. Hypoxia in pregnant woman can cause fetal distress. Fetuses may also be afflicted with hypoxia by other means. When a fetus is deprived of a sufficient oxygen supply, it is called intrauterine hypoxia.
Causes of Intrauterine Hypoxia
One of the most common causes of intrauterine hypoxia is maternal smoking. Smoking while pregnant can cause a wide range of birth defects and complications. Intrauterine hypoxia can cause fetal distress, leading to brain damage, tissue death, and birth asphyxia. The best way to prevent fetal distress is to quit smoking while pregnant. There has been some evidence that nicotine alone can increase the risk of hypoxia-induced brain damage, so nicotine products other than cigarettes should also be avoided.
Any condition or disease that causes breathing problems in the mother can cause fetal distress. Lung conditions, such as chronic pulmonary disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis, and tuberculosis may also cause intrauterine hypoxia. Pregnant mothers may be at greater risk for respiratory infections, which may also cause intrauterine hypoxia. Even if the respiratory condition is temporary, it can cause fetal distress, which can have lasting effects. Mothers should take all precautions possible to safeguard against illness while pregnant.
Fetal distress can also stem from complications with the natural process of pregnancy. Early separation of the placenta from the uterus and blockages or restrictions of the umbilical cord may lead to hypoxia. Complications within the placenta can add to the fetal distress.
Symptoms of Fetal Hypoxia
Hypoxia can lower the baby’s heart rate and blood pressure. These symptoms of fetal distress may cause the mother’s blood pressure to drop, as well. Pressure on the umbilical cord can also be a sign of intrauterine hypoxia prior to birth. After birth, seizures and breathing difficulties may occur that can alert physicians to the possibility that the child has suffered fetal distress as a result of hypoxia.
Doctors can sometimes detect hypoxia prior to birth by monitoring the unborn baby’s heart rate. If hypoxia is discovered while the baby is still in the womb, physicians may be able to provide oxygen that can reduce the risk of complications. After birth, doctors can test for effects of hypoxia or fetal distress by testing neurological function, acid levels, and respiration.
Effects of Intrauterine Hypoxia
In the United States, birth asphyxia from intrauterine hypoxia is listed as the tenth most common cause of death at or prior to birth. Intrauterine hypoxia has also been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, which is the third most common cause of neonatal death. The World Health Organization estimates that birth asphyxia is responsible for about thirty percent of all stillbirths.
If the infant that has suffered from intrauterine hypoxia survives, there is a high risk of birth defects. Lack of oxygen to the central nervous system can cause cellular damage, known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. This type of fetal distress has been attributed to development of cerebral palsy, epilepsy, preeclampsia, ADHD, and many other disorders and diseases.
The severity of the effects of hypoxia depends loosely on the degree of oxygen restriction and the amount of time that the oxygen supply was constrained. Less time or lower degrees of oxygen deprivation generally pose less risk of permanent damage, but the actual effects may differ from case to case. Any hypoxia is dangerous, and infants that have suffered intrauterine hypoxia should be carefully monitored after birth for resulting conditions.
Treatment of Hypoxia
If intrauterine hypoxia is discovered, physicians must work fast. If the baby is not close to the due date, physicians may try to correct complications by surgery or oxygen induction while within the womb. If the due date is close, or other tactics are not working, the baby must be delivered by cesarean section. Babies that have suffered from fetal hypoxia or fetal distress often benefit from time in an incubator. This can help to strengthen lungs and prevent further oxygen deprivation. Babies that have experienced hypoxia before, during, or after birth should be carefully monitored for resulting conditions.
Orlando Hypoxia Attorneys
If a patient has an infant that suffered from birth defects as a result of fetal distress or hypoxia, a physician may have been able to diagnose the condition and prevent these complications. If it is suspected that a physician committed an act of medical malpractice or negligence by failing to diagnose hypoxia or fetal distress, an Orlando Hypoxia attorney should be contacted. An attorney may be able to give advice about seeking legal action to receive compensation that can help with medical bills that are a result of the misdiagnosis or malpractice.
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Hutter, Damion, John Kingdom, and et al. “Causes and Mechanisms of Intrauterine Hypoxia and Its Impact on the Fetal Cardiovascular System: A Review.” Hindawi Publishing Corporation: International Journal of Pediatrics. Creative Commons Attribution License, 18 Mar 2010. Web. 26 Sep 2013. <http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijped/2010/401323/>.