What Is Transient Tachypnea?
The amniotic fluid contained in the amniotic sac is very
important for your developing baby. This fluid surrounds the unborn baby in the
womb and acts as a cushion to protect the baby from injury. It also keeps their
temperature stable and is needed to develop healthy bones and lungs. In the
womb, the baby is constantly inhaling and exhaling the fluid. This is normal
During labor, your baby’s body releases chemicals to help their
lungs push out the fluid. The pressure of the birth canal on your baby’s chest
also releases fluid. After birth, your baby’s cough, as well as air filling their
lungs, should expel the remaining amniotic fluid.
However, sometimes the fluid doesn’t leave the lungs as quickly
and completely as it should. This excess fluid in the lungs can make it
difficult for the baby’s lungs to function properly. This condition is known as
transient tachypnea of the newborn.
This condition typically causes a fast breathing rate, or
tachypnea, for the infant. While the symptoms may be distressing, they’re
typically not life-threatening. They usually disappear within one to three days
Other names for transient tachypnea include:
- wet lungs-newborns
- retained fetal lung fluid
- transient respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)
- prolonged transition
What Are the Symptoms of Transient Tachypnea?
The symptoms of transient tachypnea are different for each
newborn. Common symptoms of this condition include:
- rapid breathing, which means over 60 breaths per
- labored breathing, including grunting and
- nostril flaring
- bluish skin, or cyanosis
- the appearance of the chest sinking under the
ribcage with each breath, or retractions
What Causes Transient Tachypnea?
The exact cause of transient tachypnea in newborns isn’t always
known. The condition may be caused by the inability of the newborn’s lungs to
expel or absorb amniotic fluid during and following delivery.
Babies born by cesarean delivery are more likely to develop this
condition. A cesarean delivery doesn’t allow the fluid to be squeezed out of
the baby’s lungs, which commonly occurs in the birth canal during vaginal
Other factors that may contribute to the development of transient
- being born before 38 weeks gestation
- being born to a mother who has diabetes
- rapid vaginal delivery
- delayed cord clamping
Male babies and those born of a larger birth weight are also more
likely to develop this condition.
How Is Transient Tachypnea Diagnosed?
The symptoms of transient tachypnea can be associated with other
medical conditions newborns can have. This may make it difficult for your doctor
to diagnose this condition. Your doctor will review your pregnancy, labor, and
complications to make a diagnosis. Your doctor will also examine your baby.
Tests may also be needed to confirm the diagnosis. These tests might include:
- a complete blood count (CBC) and blood culture to
see if your baby has an infection, such as pneumonia
- a blood gas test to check your baby’s blood
- chest X-rays to study the lungs for causes of
- a pulse oximetry monitoring, in which an oxygen
sensor is attached to your baby’s foot, allowing the doctor to monitor their lung
If there are no other causes for your baby’s symptoms, your
doctor may make a diagnosis of transient tachypnea.
How Is Transient Tachypnea Treated?
If your baby has the symptoms of transient tachypnea, they’ll be
given supplemental oxygen to keep blood oxygen levels stable. This oxygen will
typically be delivered through a tube that’s placed around your baby’s head and
in their nose, or nasal cannula. Most babies will respond to treatment within
12 to 24 hours. During this period, the amount of supplemental oxygen needed by
your baby should decrease.
Newborns with breathing difficulties may not feed properly. If
this occurs, your doctor will also provide fluids and nutrients to your baby
intravenously (through their vein) or through a tube through their nose into
their stomach. Because transient tachypnea can be difficult to distinguish from
an infection, your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics. If test results show
there’s no infection, these antibiotics will be stopped.
In rare cases, breathing difficulties may make it necessary to
use a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine that can help your baby breathe
until they’re able to breathe independently.
What Is the Outlook for a Newborn with
The symptoms of transient tachypnea typically resolve within one
to three days following birth. In some cases, the symptoms may last up to a week.
Once the symptoms resolve, newborns don’t usually have any additional health
problems or need special follow-up care.
How Can Transient Tachypnea Be Prevented?
There’s no way to definitively prevent transient tachypnea. However,
you can increase your chances of giving birth to a healthy baby by:
- eating a healthy diet during pregnancy, which
includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- seeing your doctor regularly for prenatal
- quitting smoking
- not consuming alcohol or drugs that aren’t
prescribed by your doctor