Some newborns have asphyxia, i.e. they do not breathe. The brain controls the breathing, and asphyxia comes from the dysfunction of the normal function of the child’s brain.
Sometimes it happens because the placenta, which supplies the fetus in the womb, does not give enough oxygen to the brain during severe childbirth.
This often occurs when the fetus is too small in relation to the age of pregnancy. In some cases, the baby’s brain is damaged during childbirth. In very rare cases, the function of the child’s brain is weakened if the mother received the pain medication (e.g. pethidine) immediately before delivery. Sometimes the deformation of the brain is caused by an abnormality during the development in the uterus.
The child does not breathe and does not cry when he is born. In mild cases the skin is blue, and the limbs appear stiff (although there is some kind of motion in them). In severe cases the newborn has ashy skin, is immobile and flimsy.
Approximately 10% of newborns need little help with breathing. It is more likely that a woman who smokes in pregnancy will give birth to a small baby that will therefore have asphyxia at birth.
The risk of permanent brain damage (after 4-5 minutes without oxygen) or even death (after 10 minutes without oxygen) is small since the obstetricians and midwives are fully equipped to revive the asphyxic newborn for a few seconds after delivery. The danger is somewhat bigger if a woman gives birth at home because usually, under such conditions, the special equipment is not at disposal.
What to do?
In rare cases, when you need to revive a newborn with asphyxia, or a newborn who has stopped breathing, quickly wipe off the secretion from baby’s mouth with a handkerchief or a clean cloth and then apply mouth-to-mouth method.
Lack of placenta oxygenation is usually detected during childbirth, so asphyxia can be prevented by labor induction.
If a child is born with asphyxia, the secretion from the uterus must be removed quickly by a special tube from the child’s mouth, nose, and throat. In mild cases of asphyxia, the child is subsequently referred to a rapid breathing by inhaling oxygen that acts on the brain and encourages it to regulate breathing.
If this method fails, a special mask is placed on the child’s face, through which oxygen is pumped (pressurized) into the airway.
If the child’s breathing is disrupted because of the medications his/hers mother took before giving birth, their effect can be suppressed by giving an injection of another drug to a baby.
In severe cases of asphyxia, oxygen is brought into the lungs through a tube that is inserted into the trachea (artificial respiration). Breathing usually starts in a few minutes. Sometimes, if the brain is damaged during childbirth or is not sufficiently developed, artificial respiration may continue for several weeks.