A few of the main questions that can be on the minds of families who have been told that their child has suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth is initially, will their baby be ok, and secondly, how did this happen, or what caused this? For many parents, an HIE, or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy diagnosis is just not something they are familiar with.

For the purposes of this talk for HIE Resource Place, I am going to explain two places in your baby’s medical records where you can search for a better understanding as to whether birth oxygen deprivation possibly occurred. From a basic standpoint in this context, HIE is a reduced level of blood and oxygen which can lead to a brain injury for a baby.


In some cases, the readings from the umbilical cord gas levels can help determine whether significant metabolic acidosis has occurred. The umbilical cord generally contains three blood vessels, or in other words, a three-cord vessel. These vessels break down to one large vein, which carries oxygenated blood from mom to baby and two smaller arteries, which essentially carries the baby’s waste material to the mother.

The normal range in general for arterial cord blood pH is between 7.18 to 7.38. An arterial cord blood pH less than 7.0 and in some cases 7.1, presents a strong suggestion that metabolic acidosis has occurred. Metabolic acidosis suggests a higher risk of HIE due to the possibility of asphyxia at the moment of birth.


Another clue as to birth oxygen deprivation can come in the form of APGAR scoring. Because of the subjective nature of APGAR scoring, results can sometime vary. With that said, APGAR scores are a way to quickly summarize the health of a newborn baby. The scores are given at the 1-minute mark of life, the 5-minute mark, and in some cases the 10-minute mark.

The scores range from 0-10, with 10 being the best score. Usually scores which are 7 or above mean that the baby is healthy, while lower than 7 scores mean the baby needs more medical attention.


When looking for birth oxygen deprivation clues, your baby’s medical records can provide a wealth of information. Requesting baby and mom’s records can help you and your family get a clearer picture as to what may have happened during labor and delivery.  

Your friends at HIE Resource Place