An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Preventing Oxygen Deprivation in a Baby
It is very important to remember that hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) occurs due to oxygen deprivation. Because of this, preventing the oxygen deprivation that causes HIE is key. To prevent oxygen deprivation, pregnancies must be properly monitored and cared for throughout gestation, labor, delivery, and the neonatal period.
In many cases, the underlying risk factors and causes can be recognized, mitigated, and controlled in order to prevent HIE. Indeed, one of the common threads that tie together many preventable cases of HIE is the failure on the part of medical professionals to carry out the standards of care. These medical mistakes can include:
- A failure to deliver a baby in time
- A failure in recognizing that the baby’s heart rate is abnormal on the fetal monitoring strips
- A failure to resuscitate or intubate the baby in time
- A failure to recognize and act on other relevant risk factors
Sometimes these errors can also be due to a failure of basic communication between the various care providers – results of various tests or procedures may not be communicated or can get lost, especially during shift changes or between departments. Because the prevention of oxygen deprivation is so heavily dependent on medical care providers, it is essential that these professionals provide appropriate care to their patients, and communicate with each other effectively.
There are several specific measures that can be taken to prevent HIE when risk factors are present. Click the following links to learn more about specific preventative measures:
- Betamethasone – A corticosteroid that can be used to help premature babies prepare developmentally for life outside the womb.
- Magnesium sulfate – An inorganic salt that can be used to instill neuroprotective effects on the fetal brain before premature birth.
- Fetal heart rate monitoring – A method used to assess the status of the fetus before and during labor and delivery.
- C-section delivery – A method of delivery that may be required in order to prevent or relieve oxygen deprivation to the fetus.
- Prenatal testing – Several tests can be administered to confirm the wellbeing of the baby, identify risk factors, and ensure that an oxygen-depriving event does not occur.
- Prenatal and neonatal care – Excellent care before, at, and after birth is essential in preventing oxygen deprivation, especially in high-risk pregnancies.
- Preventing premature birth – Premature babies are at a greater risk for HIE and other injuries than are babies born at term. Because of this, certain methods can be used to prevent preterm birth until the baby has had more time to develop. Cervical cerclage, progesterone, and magnesium sulfate are three common methods of preventing premature birth.