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HIE is one of the leading causes of infant mortality

While every stage of pregnancy carries risk, mothers and babies are especially vulnerable during labor and delivery.

One of the most common causes of infant mortality or severe impairment in the U.S. is hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. HIE is a potentially fatal type of brain damage that may occur when there is a lack of blood flow or oxygen to the baby’s brain, often due to complications during childbirth.

Potential symptoms of HIE

The type and severity of HIE symptoms depend on the level of brain damage that occurred. Immediately after birth, infants with mild to moderate HIE may experience seizures and have abnormal reflexes, unusually high or low muscle tone and unusual difficulty feeding or sleeping.

Severe HIE may result in extreme, increasingly frequent seizures, irregular breathing, acute hypotonia, lack of response to external stimuli and cardiorespiratory failure.

Long-term effects of HIE

Many newborns diagnosed with HIE die within days of birth. About one in four babies who survive HIE develop some form of permanent brain damage. In addition to the motor and/or cognitive impairment and developmental delays, health outcomes for children with HIE may include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Emotional or behavioral disorders

HIE prevention

Screening expectant mothers for potentially high-risk health issues, ordering proper prenatal testing and fetal monitoring, and ensuring a timely delivery are often essential for preventing HIE.

Unfortunately, when health care professionals fail to identify potential complications or take appropriate steps to prevent birth asphyxia, the results may easily lead to a lifetime of cognitive, physical and emotional obstacles for the newborn child.