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Babies with Very Low Birth Weights More Likely to Suffer Serious Injuries and Death During Overnight Birth

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A research study published in the Journal of Pediatrics sought to evaluate the relationship between childbirth during overnight hours and serious birth injuries or neonatal death in infants born with very low birth weights. The results were significant, showing that babies with very low birth weight are at increased risk for severe intraventricular hemorrhage, death, and several other serious injuries when born between midnight and 7:00 a.m.

The study investigated 47,617 infants born in California and Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2009 with birth weights ranging from 500 grams (1.10 lbs.) to 1499 grams (3.30 lbs.). Babies with severe congenital anomalies were not included in the study. Congenital anomaly simply means a medical condition, often inherited, that occurs prior to birth.

Researchers focused on outcomes associated with overnight, or off-peak delivery, which was defined as birth between 12:00 a.m. and 6:59 a.m. The potential outcomes were death and three conditions associated with cognitive impairments in childhood, including: bronchopulmonary dysplasia, retinopathy of prematurity, and severe (grade 3 or 4) intraventricular hemorrhage. Continue reading for an explanation of each of these conditions.

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia, or BPD, is a type of chronic lung disease that occurs in newborns when the lungs are damaged. It occurs most often in premature infants and babies with low birth weights. BPD involves damage to the lungs and airways resulting in destruction of the alveoli (the air sacs in the lungs). Notably, children are not born with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. This condition develops as a result of medical interventions after birth. Although a baby may require breathing assistance or additional oxygen when born, the treatments necessary to save their life may also cause serious lung damage. Specifically, prolonged ventilation can cause the alveoli to become overstretched and damaged over time. Also, high concentrations of oxygen place newborns at increased risk of developing BPD. The severity of BPD varies based on the amount of oxygen an infant requires at birth, as well as the duration of supplemental oxygen or ventilation after birth.

Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a medical condition that most often affects premature babies and those with very low birth weights. This disorder involves abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina. Depending on the severity of the specific case, ROP can cause retinal detachment, long-term visual impairments, and blindness.

Intraventricular Hemorrhage

Intraventricular hemorrhage is bleeding into the brain’s ventricular system, where the cerebrospinal fluid is produced. Also known as intraventricular bleeding, this type of birth injury can occur as a result of physical trauma or stroke. Intraventricular hemorrhage is common in premature infants who experience respiratory distress syndrome, elevated blood pressure, fetal stroke, or a collapsed lung. In some cases, medical negligence plays a role. For example, doctors may cause head trauma with errors during delivery or fail to treat respiratory distress.

Study Findings

Among all of the infants included in the study, 9,317 were delivered overnight, accounting for 19.6%. In the population of newborns born during off-peak hours, there were more instances of death, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, retinopathy of prematurity, and intraventricular hemorrhage. Overall, the study showed that newborns with very low birth weights are at an increased risk for death, intraventricular hemorrhage and other serious birth injuries when born during the overnight period.

Low Birth Weight Injuries and Medical Malpractice

Medical negligence is an unfortunate contributor to birth injuries in many cases. Doctors may fail to recognize risk factors that place the mother and her child at risk during delivery, fail to take timely and appropriate action when dangerous situations arise, or make errors during delivery that lead to catastrophic injury. Long-term complications such as Cerebral Palsy and other cognitive impairments are often a devastating outcome. If your child suffered a birth injury in New Jersey, contact us anytime at 866-708-8617 or fill out our online contact form. Our attorneys will listen to your child’s specific birth injury case and answer all of your questions. Consultations are always provided free of charge.

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