What Happens if an Emergency C-Section Is Not Performed in Time?

newborn baby

Award-Winning Attorney Scott Weidenfeller Discusses the Importance of Prompt Delivery When a Baby Experiences Oxygen Deprivation.

Sometimes during labor, a dangerous maternal or fetal condition occurs that can jeopardize the baby’s health. Often, the dangerous condition causes the baby to be deprived of oxygen, which will cause abnormal fetal heart tracings. When this happens, a baby may need to be emergently delivered via a cesarean section, also known as a C-section. Sometimes, the staff will use a conservative approach, and try to re-position the mother, give the mother oxygen and fluids, etc. However, while these conservative measures are underway, steps should be taken to prepare for a C-section.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is of the position that an emergency C-section should occur within 30 minutes of the time of decision (to perform a C-section) to the time of incision. Often, though, many C-sections should occur much sooner than 30 minutes from the time of decision[1], such as in cases in which there is placental abruption, placenta previa, uterine rupture, and umbilical cord prolapse, according to ACOG. In fact, ACOG has opined that any time the fetal heart rate monitor reveals that a baby is not receiving sufficient oxygen, a C-section should be performed “as expeditiously as feasible.” As it related to the deprivation of oxygen in a baby, one study found that C-sections should be performed in about 10-18 minutes in order to protect the baby from irreversible hypoxia and neonatal encephalopathy/hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

If a baby is being deprived of oxygen (which will be reflected in the fetal heart rate tracings), and a prompt or emergent delivery does not occur, a baby can suffer neonatal encephalopathy/HIE. Unfortunately, these injuries can cause permanent brain injury.

Some conditions that can cause oxygen deprivation in a baby are:

Some indicators that your baby may have experienced oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery include if your baby:

  • Was blue, limp, not crying, and/or not breathing at birth;
  • Needed resuscitation at birth;
  • Had seizures shortly after birth;
  • Needed brain cooling (hypothermia) treatment;
  • Required a stay in the NICU;
  • Experienced a lot of apneic periods and drops in heart rate;
  • Required intubation (a breathing tube and ventilator support);
  • Was prescribed physical and/or occupational therapy;
  • Had umbilical cord blood gases that showed acidosis; and/or
  • Had blood gases in the NICU that showed acidosis.

Sometimes, babies experience oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery, but the medical team promptly initiates hypothermia treatment and provides appropriate supportive care, resulting in a baby’s brain injury resolving and thus not evolving to permanent brain damage. Other times, babies are diagnosed with HIE and suffer permanent brain injury ranging from mild to severe.

The following conditions are associated with brain injury in a baby:

Compensation for Babies Who Were Injured Due to Delayed Delivery

If your baby is experiencing developmental delays or other issues, you should have an attorney who specializes in birth injury cases review your records to determine if there was negligence that caused a brain injury and any related problems, such as cerebral palsy and/or a seizure disorder. There is no cost to you to have an attorney look at all the medical records related to your baby’s birth and post-delivery care. The attorneys at Grewal Law PLLC understand that parents are busy so they undertake all the work required to obtain and review the medical records. Obtaining compensation for a child that has a birth-related injury is very important because therapies and treatments can be costly, especially if a child will need treatment for a lifetime. There are many different types of therapies and treatments, and parents typically want their child to receive all treatments and therapies that have a chance of providing benefit.

If you think your baby experienced a traumatic birth, oxygen deprivation, delayed delivery, or delayed emergency C-section — or if your baby’s care was mismanaged after birth in the NICU — please contact our team of award-winning Michigan injury attorneys. The medical malpractice team at Grewal Law PLLC is composed of attorneys and health care professionals, including a physician, registered nurse, pharmacist, paramedic, occupational therapist, and respiratory therapist.

Scott Weidenfeller, an award-winning attorney, has recovered millions of dollars for families of injured babies and children, and this includes two recent settlements that were in excess of $7 million each. The Grewal team comprises outstanding negotiators, and the firm was instrumental in negotiating the $500 million settlement from Michigan State University for survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse.

If your baby was diagnosed with HIE, seizures, cerebral palsy, motor disorders, low muscle tone, a speech delay, PVL, hydrocephalus, intellectual disabilities, or developmental delays, or if you experienced problems during delivery or shortly before or after birth, our attorneys and medical staff want to hear from you.

Please call Grewal Law PLLC at (888) 211-5798. We are available to answer your questions 24/7.


[1]American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Guidelines for perinatal care. Elk Grove Village, IL.

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