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What Being Born Blue Could Mean for Your Baby

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When a Newborn’s Skin is Blue in Color after Birth, it may be a Sign of Serious Health Complications

Some babies are born with blue-tinged skin, gums, or fingernails. Normally, their blood becomes fully oxygenated after five to ten minutes, and the blue disappears. However, when the blue tint does not disappear, a baby may not be receiving enough oxygen and they may require immediate medical attention. This condition, referred to in the medical literature as cyanosis, is a blue-tinged skin discoloration caused by insufficient blood oxygen levels or low-functioning circulation. When cyanosis occurs and medical treatment is not prompt, a child’s health may be in danger. There are a variety of potential immediate and long-term ramifications that may affect an infant whose oxygen supply is too low. On the most extreme end of the spectrum, they may suffer respiratory or heart failure, even death if the condition lingers untreated for too long. Even in the absence of an outcome so severe, a baby with untreated cyanosis may experience cognitive deficits, sensory impairments, developmental delays, and other difficulties that persist for the rest of their life.

Regardless of whether a baby was born with congenital conditions, experienced the effects and strain of a prolonged or difficult labor, or another complication was responsible for causing cyanosis, a medical professional who does not recognize and treat the underlying condition may cause irreparable harm to the newborn. In addition, mishandling of the delivery itself, or maternal or fetal conditions present during pregnancy, may lead to unintended consequences and a baby being blue after birth. If your baby was born blue and you suspect that medical errors or failures to respond adequately to your baby’s condition led to further problems, you may be interested in conferring with a birth injury lawyer. We understand and help parents like you every day, and we welcome your call or request for a free consultation.

What Occurs when Babies are Born Blue?

The two main types of blue skin discoloration are distinct in their level of severity and potential for long-term effects. The first is acrocyanosis, while the second more serious type is cyanosis. When only the extremities, (especially the palms and soles) turn blue, acrocyanosis may be the cause. Babies often have acrocyanosis, or children experience it when they are cold, but it is temporary. The more dangerous kind of cyanosis is in the body’s center, the torso, head, and mouth. This type is hazardous due to heart, lung, or blood problems.

What Leads to a Baby Appearing Blue after being Born?

Cyanosis occurs when a congenital disability, disease, or developmental disorder causes poorly oxygenated blood to recycle into the blood system. In addition, diseases of the heart, metabolism, neurological system, lungs, or blood, such as infection, may bring on the condition. Sometimes the lungs cannot replenish blood oxygen due to outside factors, but other instances of cyanosis arise from blockages from choking or lung diseases, such as asthma, bronchiolitis (infection of the air passages in the lungs), or pneumonia. Additionally, heart defects may prevent blue blood from reaching the lungs. When a congenital heart condition causes cyanosis, the newborn patient is often diagnosed with cyanotic heart disease.

The human circulatory system typically carries deoxygenated blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs to receive oxygen. When the blood leaves the heart and goes through the lungs to oxygenate other organs, it is red. But the organs that take oxygen leave the blood blue and poorly oxygenated until it returns to the heart and the lungs again. However, when heart defects, blockages, or other conditions interfere with the process, the blood never reaches the lungs, causing the red blood cells to turn blue and the skin to appear blue, or blue blood mixes with red blood before returning to the body.

Other defects of the breathing pathways, like the nose or larynx, may also create low oxygen levels. Blockages in the nose or a malformed larynx may obstruct breathing, as do lung defects that prevent normal breathing. When an infant inhales meconium or contracts pneumonia, oxygen deprivation may also result. Further, a newborn’s lung hypertension, or persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), can be fatal. When an infant’s circulatory system does not adapt to breathing outside the womb, PPHN occurs, essentially oxygen deprivation. If the infant survives, they may have lifelong learning disabilities and other cognitive delays. Finally, defective hemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in the blood, can lead to cyanosis. Due to the gravity of heart, lung, and blood defects that cause cyanosis in newborns and infants, physicians must recognize the cause of cyanosis and act quickly.

How do Doctors Detect Cyanosis?

Although it would seem cyanosis is easy to detect, that is not always the case. Children with darker skin may not appear blue, though their lips, tongue, and nail beds look different from someone with the same complexion. One sure way to diagnose the condition is by an oxygen level measurement. When oxygen saturation is low, inadequate oxygen may be the cause. If the baby has trouble breathing or is in shock, lethargic, or limp, they may need to be supported with oxygen and stabilization first.

What can they do to Treat Blue Babies?

As a general rule, the longer insufficient oxygen goes undetected, the more severe the symptoms. Treatment consists of repairing the underlying condition and ensuring the infant is no longer struggling for the oxygen they need. For example, a heart valve problem, blockage, infection, or other defects may require surgical repair. A blue colored infant may also receive oxygen therapy, antibiotics, or blood transfusions.

A newborn’s fate, when cyanosis occurs, depends on the expertise and rapid response of their medical team. A delayed diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis can lead to profound injury that affects the afflicted baby for life. Recognizing cyanosis is crucial to address the condition, marked by low oxygen, but just as critical to treating the underlying disease leading to cyanosis if one exists. An untreated heart, lung, or blood defect can affect all the organs in the body and leave a child with severe medical problems if they survive.

What if Malpractice Occurs and a Baby’s Skin is Bluish?

When a physician misses the diagnosis or delays treatment, they may be liable for negligence. Likewise, failing to properly manage a condition such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, or omitting the necessary preventive strategies for birth complications that result in low oxygen, may lead to malpractice liability. Often, complications from suboptimal oxygenation at birth are prolonged or permanent, requiring intensive therapeutic treatment for years, if not a lifetime. Medical malpractice is a sober reality and a tragic misfortune for babies involved and those who love them. By seeking help investigating the case further for signs of negligence and exploring the potential to file a lawsuit, you may recover compensation for a child who has been impacted.

Can You Obtain Compensation for Negligence when a Baby is Blue after Birth in NJ?

If your baby has been impacted by cyanosis, or you believe someone was negligent and your baby was born blue, seek qualified legal counsel to better understand the avenues available. Our New Jersey malpractice team assists babies and their caregivers who have experienced the negative repercussions of substandard medical care. Contact (866)-708-8617 to talk to an attorney about what happened in your child’s case free of charge.

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