As a parent, nothing is more important than the health of your child, and most people start working to keep their kids healthy before their birth. From eating a healthy diet and taking prenatal vitamins, to talking or singing to your baby in the womb, there’s a lot that expectant mothers and fathers can do to ensure the well-being of their baby. Unfortunately, even when parents do every single thing right, complications can occur during birth that have catastrophic consequences for children and their families. One such complication is the condition known as hypoxia.

What is Hypoxia?

Hypoxia, in layman’s terms, is oxygen deprivation that occurs during birth. Hypoxia occurs when there is a delay at the crucial moment when a baby is supposed to cease breathing through the umbilical cord and start breathing with its own lungs. According to an article posted on the blog of Gersowitz, Libo & Korek, P.C. (GLK), a variety of factors can contribute to a baby receiving insufficient oxygen at birth, including physician delay in performing a cesarean section, physical trauma during delivery caused by physician’s instruments, the baby becoming stuck in the birth canal, the physician’s use of excessive force during delivery, and diminished glucose levels or untreated jaundice in the mother.

Under the general umbrella of hypoxia, there are four specific categories into which oxygen deprivation-related injuries are divided: cerebral hypoxia, focal cerebral ischemia, cerebral infarction, and global cerebral ischemia. Each category involves slightly different symptoms, but all are caused by oxygen deprivation at birth.

Whatever the specific type of hypoxia, the GLK article explains that the injury will occur in two stages. The first stage begins immediately when the baby is deprived of oxygen, and symptoms of oxygen deprivation are often observable right away during this stage. The second stage begins once the flow of oxygenated blood to the baby’s brain is restored, causing damaged cells therein to release toxins.

Symptoms of Hypoxia

The symptoms that manifest will vary depending on the specific category of hypoxia suffered, but some of the most common symptoms to look for include: a low heart rate or no heart beat at all, irregular breathing or a lack of breathing, seizures, muscles lacking tone, blue or pale skin, slow reflexes, and an Apgar score of less than three persisting for more than 5 minutes. If any combination of these symptoms manifest in your child following birth, then they may have suffered hypoxia during birth and you should have them examined by a medical professional immediately.

Medical Malpractice Claims Based on Hypoxia at Birth

According to FindLaw, most of the causes of hypoxia discussed in this article are entirely preventable if physicians exercise the appropriate level of care in monitoring the mother and child’s health during pregnancy, and if the delivery itself is handled competently. Therefore, if your child suffers permanent symptoms of hypoxia, they may have been the victim of medical malpractice and you may have a medical malpractice claim. Whether you have a valid claim, however, will depend on the facts of your specific case.


The birth of a child is usually one of the most anticipated and joyous events in parents’ lives. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are about your and your baby’s health during pregnancy, hypoxia can occur during and immediately after birth as a result of physician negligence. If your child is displaying symptoms of hypoxia after birth, then you may have a valid medical malpractice claim against the delivering doctor. Don’t hesitate, speak to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for a consultation.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.