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The amount of damage the condition causes to the baby depends upon how long the infant was deprived of oxygen.
When the baby doesn't get enough oxygen before, during or after the birth, the situation can turn life-threatening. This is clinically termed birth asphyxia or perinatal asphyxia. As per WHO, it accounts for 900,000 deaths annually and is one of the primary causes of infant mortality. It usually happens due to some complications during childbirth.
The amount of damage the condition causes to the baby depends upon how long the infant was deprived of oxygen, how low the oxygen level was and how promptly the treatment got started. Immediate treatment is essential in the situation so the baby gets oxygen as quickly as possible. In mild or moderate cases, the infant might fully recover with prompt medical intervention. However, in severe cases, it can lead to serious complications and even fatality.
What might be causing it?
Birth asphyxia can happen due to many reasons. Sometimes the condition is not easy to predict in the routine check-ups that occur prior to childbirth. Many times, the situation surfaces during the delivery. Sometimes, the umbilical cord might leave the cervix before the baby or it might just get compressed. Other reasons could be if the baby inhales the amniotic fluid or if the fluid enters the mother's blood, initiating an allergic response. As per studies, uterine rupture has also been associated with the condition. Conditions prior to birth that can lead to this complication may be the placenta separating from the infant, infection during labour, high blood pressure during pregnancy and other causes like premature birth when the lungs are still developing.
Signs a newborn might be oxygen-deprived
When the baby is born, healthcare providers usually check the vitals and assess the skin tone, heart rate, muscle tone, breathing rate and reflexes. The following are some signs that signal complications:
- Unusual skin tone of the infant
- Infants having poor reflexes like not crying
- Low heart rate
- Difficulty in breathing
- Amniotic fluid stained with meconium (infant's first feces)
- Lack of urination
- Low blood pressure and other symptoms.
Birth asphyxia can cause both short-term and long-term consequences for the baby. It is one of the causes of neurological problems in children. In infants born with birth asphyxia, the first few days must require extra vigilance.
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