Brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation at birth and the increased risk of autism, epilepsy and other disorders
Brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation at birth and the increased risk of autism, epilepsy, and other disorders
With recent advances in medicine and technology, childbirth has never been safer. Every second, healthy infants are born to healthy mothers worldwide. However, childbirth carries risks of complications. Oxygen deprivation is one of the most common and dangerous issues that can arise from complications during childbirth, particularly in instances of prolonged delivery, inadequate perinatal care, and medical negligence. Once a newborn is deprived of oxygen, brain damage can occur in a matter of minutes. This can lead to permanent disability and even death. While complications at birth are rare nowadays, they can still occur without warning. It is therefore the responsibility of medical professionals to act fast in the event of oxygen deprivation, as failure to do this can have devastating consequences for an infant’s development.
How does oxygen deprivation at birth cause brain damage?
Brain damage can result from any form of stress on an infant’s developing brain during childbirth. Oxygen deprivation is a key example. Perinatal hypoxia and asphyxia are conditions that arise when infants do not receive enough oxygen at birth. Asphyxia, or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), occurs when oxygen or blood flow cannot reach the brain. Essential neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin, are disrupted as a result. These conditions can cause irreversible damage within minutes of oxygen deprivation and can even be fatal.
How does this relate to autism, epilepsy, and other disorders?
The connection between brain damage at birth and disorders such as autism, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy is a key issue in ongoing medico-legal research. Epilepsy is characterised by the unpredictable recurrence of seizures, while cerebral palsy is defined by motor difficulties. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) encompasses a broad range of neurodevelopmental disorders characterised by social, cognitive, communicative, and behavioural difficulties. Children with autism are more likely to develop intellectual disabilities, as well as other conditions such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Children and families who live with these disorders face extraordinary challenges and often require special care and support in their day-to-day lives.
While some incidences of epilepsy and cerebral palsy have been firmly linked to brain damage caused by asphyxia at birth, the link between autism and oxygen deprivation is more ambiguous. Despite decades of in-depth research, the causes of autism remain largely unknown. There is some evidence to suggest that brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation at birth may increase an infant’s risk of developing disorders such as autism.
A recent study in the US estimated that complications at birth may increase the risk of ASD in children by as much as 10%. Oxygen deprivation was found to be a leading factor in these estimates.
In a recent High Court Case, an eight-year-old boy with autism, recently settled for €10 million in the High Court following a long legal battle against the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin. It was alleged that his autism diagnosis could be linked to the acute hypoxia he suffered at birth, the circumstances of which resulted from the hospital’s mismanagement of his prenatal care. Another recent case in Ireland resulted in a €15-million settlement for a teenage boy who suffered brain damage following complications during his birth and who was later diagnosed with autism. Both cases demonstrate the feasibility of pursuing legal action on the basis of establishing a link between brain damage suffered at birth and disorders such as autism.
Can I make a claim?
While oxygen deprivation at birth is treatable in some cases, the best means of combating its long-lasting effects is prevention. Medical professionals are trusted to ensure that oxygen deprivation does not occur in childbirth. It is therefore possible to make a birth injury claim if it appears that medical professionals were negligent or failed to prevent brain damage from oxygen deprivation during childbirth, especially in cases where an infant is subsequently diagnosed with autism, epilepsy, or another developmental disorder.
In need of advice?
At Whelan Law, we are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients with birth injury claims. If you believe that your child’s autism, epilepsy, or other disorder diagnosis resulted from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen at birth, our legal team is ready to guide you through the claims process every step of the way.
Call us at +353 (0) 62 61110 or visit our website to arrange a private consultation today.