In today’s educational article I will touch on the important topic of an HIE baby, and the lack of oxygen during labor and delivery from a medical legal standpoint. If you are here because of a recent HIE diagnosis, then you probably know that HIE is short for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. This term is usually foreign to most parents until they must understand its diagnosis (usually following labor and delivery).


At the conclusion of this article, it is my hope that you have a better understanding of HIE and some of the areas of review if a birth trauma attorney is assisting you with an investigation into its diagnosis. Please remember that if you have specific questions about your labor and delivery it is a good idea to voice those concerns with your own attorney.




With an HIE baby, many parents wonder not only what is this diagnosis, but what caused it in their child? One of the easiest ways to understand HIE is to break down the three words consisting of the diagnosis. Hypoxic, to get a better understanding is associated with oxygen. Ischemic, the second word is associated with blood-flow. Finally, encephalopathy in this context can mean a brain injury. Once we put all the words back together, we get a reduced level of blood and oxygen, which leads to a brain injury.


Having a good grasp as to the basics of this diagnosis can help parents get a better picture of what may have been going on with their baby during labor and delivery. In addition, it may help parents when formatting questions for their doctors.




For some families, labor and delivery can start off slow. However, as time moves ahead, the process can get “busy.” This can happen because of a host of reasons. However, when oxygen related issues are present, nurses are looking to play close attention to mother and baby and get the doctor to the bedside when needed.


One way in which nurses and doctors can check on a baby’s well-being is using the electronic fetal heart monitor. This device is attached to the mother’s stomach and monitors, among other things, the baby’s heart rate and mother’s contraction pattern.


When a baby is having oxygen related problems, this can be observed through the monitor readouts. For example, a condition called bradycardia, along with late decelerations can suggest that the baby is no longer tolerating the vaginal delivery. These conditions, while occurring for a considerable amount of time can spell danger for a baby.


Late decelerations occur when the mother has a contraction and the baby’s heart rate reading does not meet the contraction. What instead happens is the deceleration down from the baby’s heart rate reading occurs after mom’s contraction pattern has ended. These signs, along with other factors can suggest that the baby may be having oxygen related issues and is in fetal distress. Thus, doctors MUST to be sure to monitor fetal distress and non-reassuring fetal heart monitor readings closely because they can be tied to oxygen related problems for the baby. Failure to properly diagnose and treat fetal distress can lead to HIE in a baby.




When parents have an HIE baby, it is totally understandable for them to have questions. If you a in this position, and have questions, pick up the phone and call me. I talk with parents who have children who have been diagnosed with HIE, cerebral palsy, MAS, etc…. This is what we do.


I can be reached at 301-850-4832. I talk with families all the time about birth trauma related injuries and I would be happy to listen to your story.


Marcus B. Boston, Esq.

Boston Law Group, LLC

2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 700

Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815


1-833-4 BABY HELP

Marcus Boston is a Maryland medical malpractice attorney who helps people navigate the Maryland childbirth injury and medical malpractice process to get money for their injuries caused by the carelessness of doctors and hospitals. BLG handles cases in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, and all other Maryland Counties.