Asphyxia is the result of a reduction of oxygen to the placenta that produces significant changes in the fetus.  Prolonged fetal asphyxia damages various vital organs.  When the fetal heart is affected, a decrease in output leads to fetal hypotension and a further decrease in blood flow to the fetal heart and brain.  Prolonged and/or sustained hypoxia results in decreased oxygen levels in the tissues (hypoxia) that leads to fetal asphyxia.

Fetuses have ways to deal with decreased levels of oxygen (hypoxia).  They include:

·         Redistribution of circulation to vital organs (heart, brain)

·         Increased anaerobic metabolism

·         Decrease in heart rate

·         Reduction in oxygen consumption

The effectiveness of these mechanisms depends on the duration, frequency and intensity of the hypoxia and the health of the placenta.  A damaged placenta will not allow adequate recovery to take place resulting in prolonged fetal hypoxia (asphyxia).

Ways to detect fetal hypoxia include:

·         Fetal scalp stimulation

·         Vibroacoustic stimulation

·         Fetal pulse oxymetry

·         Electronic fetal monitoring

·         Fetal scalp blood sampling

Fetal asphyxia or intrauterine asphyxia is a common cause of long-term neurologic dysfunction. Prolonged and uncorrected fetal asphyxia leads to progressive cellular and tissue damage resulting in organ failure and ultimately fetal death in-utero or severe disabilities if the fetus is born alive.  Damage to the fetal brain depends on the severity and duration of hypoxemia.

Severe degrees of fetal asphyxia is called ‘Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy’.  Uncorrected Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy can result in ‘Neonatal Encephalopathy’.  This is a syndrome defined by impaired neurologic function after birth.  This syndrome includes:

·         Difficulty breathing

·         Poor muscle tone

·         Poor reflexes

·         Abnormal cry and suck

·         Stupor that develops within 72 hours after birth

·         Seizures (quite often within the first days of life)

Long-term effects of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy include permanent neurologic damage such as cerebral palsy.

If your or a loved one’s baby has experienced fetal asphyxia and you feel it may have been prevented, contact the Shelton Law Group at (888) 761-7204 or (502) 409-6460, or visit  We will work with you to ascertain whether you have a medical negligence claim resulting from a failure to provide appropriate preventative measures and subsequent treatment of fetal asphyxia.