Preventing and Treating Oxygen Deprivation at Birth

Oxygen deprivation at birth, also known as perinatal hypoxia, is one of the leading causes of infant brain damage, according to Springer International Publishing. Between 2 and 10 out of every 1,000 babies experience a lack of oxygen at birth, according to the American Journal of Neuroradiology.

In some cases, a baby may experience perinatal anoxia – the total absence of oxygen.

Not getting enough oxygen during or after birth can cause long term neurological injuries. Both perinatal hypoxia and perinatal anoxia can result in an injury called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).  Many newborns with HIE will die as a result of organ failure or lung infections.  Babies who survive will experience lifelong problems that may include seizures, developmental delay and cerebral palsy.

lack of oxygen at birthMany cases in which a baby suffers a lack of oxygen at birth could have been prevented. Certain risk factors, such as the mother’s age and the level of prenatal care may put a baby at risk for oxygen deprivation, according to Health of Children.

Doctors should be mindful that a baby may experience oxygen deprivation if the following situations occur:

  • Umbilical cord compression
  • Prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Umbilical cord around neck
  • Problems with the placenta
  • Long or difficult delivery

Health of Children reports that all medical delivery rooms are equipped with resuscitation equipment.

The delivery room staff should immediately provide oxygen if the newborn exhibits bluish or gray skin, stiff or limp limbs, a slow heartbeat, or a poor response to stimulation. Reaction time can be the difference between a healthy childhood and a lifetime of coping with the effects of brain injuries.


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