A Nationwide Birth Injury Resource

Hypoglycemia and Birth Injuries

Hypoglycemia is a medical term for a lack of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. When hypoglycemia occurs in newborns, serious birth injuries can follow, including brain damage. Understanding the causes and treatments for hypoglycemia is critical because of the complications that can follow if it is not properly diagnosed and treated.

Why hypoglycemia matters

The medical definition of hypoglycemia is a blood glucose level below 50 mg/dL. At this level, the baby's brain lacks the energy it needs to function properly. Glucose is one of the few energy sources that the brain can use, so a lack of glucose is linked to serious brain injury. Babies with hypoglycemia may develop cerebral palsy or seizures and epilepsy.

Risk factors for hypoglycemia include:

  • Premature birth
  • Diabetes in the mother
  • Particularly small or large for gestational age
  • Significant stress during pregnancy or delivery

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include jitteriness, blue skin, slow or stopped breathing, low body temperature, lethargy and poor body tone. Some babies may have difficulty feeding or swallowing. Some of these symptoms should be apparent during the Apgar test that all newborns receive. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis with a simple blood test.

When caught early, hypoglycemia is fairly easy to treat. Most babies just need a drink of breast milk or formula. If the baby is having difficulty feeding, glucose can also be administered via an intravenous (IV) needle. Such early intervention can treat hypoglycemia with no long-term consequences for the baby.

The role of medical negligence in hypoglycemia injuries

Hypoglycemia is relatively easy for medical professionals to diagnose and treat. Doctors and nurses need to be aware of the risk factors, signs and symptoms, and appropriate interventions to prevent long-term injuries, like brain injuries.

Hypoglycemia is treatable and preventable, which means that injuries caused by hypoglycemia can usually be linked to medical malpractice. If your child sustained a brain injury or other injury shortly after birth, your family has legal rights and options. The best course of action is to schedule a free consultation with an attorney in your jurisdiction.