Newborns who have birth asphyxia may fully recover, provided their cells weren’t deprived of oxygen for too long. This means babies with mild to moderate cases may be okay, but if they went without oxygen for too long they may be permanently injured. In the most severe cases, birth asphyxia may be fatal.
One of the most common ways birth asphyxia can happen is a prolonged second stage of labor, which can cause brain damage due to chemical changes that can occur when there is oxygen deprivation. Keep reading to learn more about this condition, how it is diagnosed, and how it may be treated.
The Symptoms of Birth Asphyxia
Your baby’s doctor will determine whether or not they have suffered from birth asphyxia by checking their Apgar score. A low Apgar score can be a sign that birth asphyxia has occurred. Some of the signs of the condition include:
- Low heart rate
- Weak reflexes
- Bluish or gray skin
- Weak breathing
- No breathing
- Poor muscle tone
- Meconium in the amniotic fluid
Your doctor will also check your baby for other signs that they suffered from birth asphyxia, such as a lack of urination, poor blood circulation, a lack of energy, or blood-clotting abnormalities.
How Birth Asphyxia Is Treated
When a baby has suffered from a serious case of birth asphyxia, there are treatments that can be administered that may improve the outcome. Some of these treatments may only be appropriate for full-term babies and may harm preemies. Your doctor will tell you what can be used to help your baby. Treatments that may be used include:
- Seizure medication
- Blood pressure medication
- Respiratory support
- IV nutrients
Which treatments will be right for your baby will also depend on what stage of birth asphyxiation they are in. During the first stage, which takes place during the first few minutes of oxygen deprivation, this condition is highly treatable. During the second stage, which can last for days or weeks, more intensive treatments may be necessary.
Understanding Birth Asphyxia
Birth asphyxia is when the baby is denied oxygen at some point during the birthing process or while they are still in the womb. The lack of oxygen can lead to a variety of different issues, including brain damage. Some of the causes of birth asphyxia include the following:
- There isn’t enough oxygen in the mother’s blood before or during birth
- The placenta separates from the womb before it’s supposed to
- The delivery process is long and difficult
- Issues with the umbilical cord
- The mother and/or baby has a serious infection
- The baby’s airway has not formed properly
- The baby’s airway becomes blocked during birth
- The baby is anemic, which means their blood cells can’t carry enough oxygen
When Birth Asphyxia Becomes HIE
If the damage is severe enough, this can lead to the development of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). This can be what contributes to the death of a baby.
It has been found that HIE occurs in approximately 1.5 per 1,000 live births. In some cases, the cause of the oxygen deprivation is unknown, while in others it might be due to medical error. If that’s the case, then it’s important that parents know their rights and responsibilities. The first step is that any expecting parent should get educated about it.
No one wants to think that their child is going to be seriously harmed or die during birth. This is supposed to be a happy occasion filled with joy and the excitement of bringing a new life into the world. For most, that’s exactly what happens. For others, they have to deal with tragedy and heartache.