What is asphyxia neonatorum?
Asphyxia neonatorum is a condition that occurs when a baby doesn’t get
enough oxygen during the birth process. It can be fatal. Other names for it are
perinatal asphyxia, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, and birth asphyxia.
What are the
symptoms of asphyxia neonatorum?
Babies may not experience the symptoms of asphyxia neonatorum right away. A
fetal heart rate that’s too high or low can be an indicator.
Your baby may experience immediate symptoms after birth. These can include:
- skin that appears pale or
- difficulty breathing, which
may cause symptoms such as nasal flaring or abdominal breathing
- a slow heart rate
- weak muscle tone
The length of time your baby goes without oxygen affects the severity of
symptoms. The longer a baby is without oxygen, the more likely they are to
experience symptoms. More severe symptoms can include injury or failure of the:
are the causes of asphyxia neonatorum?
Anything that affects your baby’s ability to take in oxygen can cause asphyxia
neonatorum. During labor and delivery, doctors must carefully manage oxygen
levels for both mother and baby to reduce risks.
Asphyxia neonatorum can occur if one or more of the following occurs:
- Your baby’s airway is
- Your baby has anemia, which
means their blood cells don’t carry enough oxygen.
- The delivery lasts too long
or is difficult.
- The mother doesn’t get enough
oxygen before or during delivery.
- The mother’s blood pressure
is too high or low during delivery.
- An infection affects the
mother or the baby.
- The placenta separates from
the uterus too quickly, resulting in a loss of oxygen.
- The umbilical cord wraps improperly
around the baby.
There are two ways babies who lose oxygen before, during, or after delivery
can experience asphyxia neonatorum. The lack of oxygen can cause immediate
damage. This can happen within minutes. Damage can also occur when cells
recover from the lack of oxygen and release toxins into the body.
is at risk for asphyxia neonatorum?
According to the Seattle
Children’s Hospital, asphyxia neonatorum occurs in about 4 out of every 1,000
live births in the United States. Premature babies are at increased risk for
this condition. Babies born to mothers with conditions that affect pregnancy,
such as diabetes mellitus or preeclampsia, are also at greater risk. A study
published in the Italian
Journal of Pediatrics notes that the mother’s age or the baby’s low birth
weight are also risk factors. It’s also more common in developing countries
where mothers have less access to proper prenatal and postnatal care.
How is asphyxia neonatorum diagnosed?
Your baby will receive an Apgar score about 1 to 5 minutes after birth. The
scoring system has five factors:
- response to stimulus
- muscle tone
Each factor gets a score of 0, 1, or 2. The highest score possible is 10. A
baby with a lower Apgar score has a higher risk for asphyxia neonatorum. A
score lower than 7 can indicate that a baby doesn’t have enough oxygen. The doctor
may suspect your baby has asphyxia neonatorum if they have an Apgar score of 3
or lower for more than 5 minutes.
A doctor may also test a baby’s blood for high acid levels. This can
indicate poor oxygenation. A doctor may also order blood tests to see if a
baby’s kidneys, heart, and liver might be affected.
is asphyxia neonatorum treated?
The severity of your baby’s symptoms influences the treatment. The timing of
when your baby receives the diagnosis also affects their treatment. For
example, mothers may receive additional oxygen before delivery to boost a
baby’s oxygenation before birth. A cesarean delivery is a potential treatment
in prolonged or difficult deliveries.
After birth, babies with the condition may need ventilation to support their
breathing. Keeping babies warm has also been shown to reduce harmful effects. Doctors
will also monitor the baby’s blood pressure and fluid intake to make sure they’re
getting enough oxygen.
Some babies can experience seizures as a result of asphyxia neonatorum.
Doctors should carefully treat these babies to avoid injury from seizures. The
following may help the baby:
- anti-inflammatory medications
which is a medication that reduces acid buildup in the body
is the long-term outlook?
The outlook depends on how long your baby goes without oxygen. Surviving
babies can experience anything from no consequences to major long-term
Asphyxia neonatorum is a leading cause of brain damage and death in infants
worldwide. An estimated 900,000 babies die each year around the world due to
asphyxia neonatorum, according to the World Health
Organization, the majority of these deaths occur in developing countries.
Early diagnosis and prompt treatment of the condition are vital to saving the
baby and minimizing complications.