As you would expect, accidents happen when time for action is short. A lot of claims arise from situations where time is of the essence and action needs to be taken promptly. One area where timing is key is birth. One of the most precarious times of life is the first four minutes and this is why claims can often arise where there are delays in delivering a baby.

If the baby is in distress then a delay can cause catastrophic injury to the baby resulting in a lifetime of problems. This is why Midwives and Obstetricians have to monitor a baby’s progress so carefully.

Birth asphyxia is the starvation of blood, in particular oxygen, to the brain when a baby is born. It’s important to recognise that this is not always the result of a mistake but, if it does happen, the foetal systems start to shut down and parts of the baby’s brain can be injured. This tends to affect the limbs first and if the asphyxia becomes prolonged then there can be mental impairment too.

However, babies are very robust and very tough indeed. Where an adult starved of oxygen would generally not survive for more than 3 to 4 minutes, a baby who has been starved of oxygen for up to 10 minutes is, on balance, likely to be unaffected. Between 10 and 20 to 25 minutes a baby would most probably survive but will have brain damage. A baby starved of oxygen for more than 25 minutes is not likely to survive.

If a baby is well at birth and goes home after a day or 2, it is unlikely even if he / she develops problems and developmental delay later that these problems have been caused by birth asphyxia. A baby who has suffered birth asphyxia may later be diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy but it is important to note that in only a small percentage of children diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy is the condition found to be the result of birth injury.