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Lack of oxygen and resuscitation of newborns

One of the dangers that infants face during labor and delivery is the lack of oxygen to the brain. Washington doctors should be able to recognize and eliminate or mitigate the risk factors to reduce the chances that the baby will suffer birth injuries that could be permanently debilitating or fatal. A person with training specific to resuscitation of infants should be available at every delivery.

According to the Merck Manual, roughly 10 percent of infants need some level of respiratory assistance, often because of an obstruction of the airway is preventing lung expansion. Blood, meconium and mucus are commonly removed through suction, either with a bulb or a catheter. 

Sometimes the issue is due to risk factors during the pregnancy, such as diabetes, toxemia or high blood pressure that occurs as a result of a kidney problem. Problems during labor and delivery could also cause failure to breathe and a restriction of the oxygen supply to the brain, such as:

  • Compression of the umbilical cord
  • Fetal bleeding in utero
  • Maternal low blood pressure
  • Early separation of the placenta from the uterus
  • Prolonged uterine contractions

Certain drugs may cause fetal distress, including anesthetics, magnesium sulfate, analgesics and opioids. If the mother abused drugs during the pregnancy, failure to breathe may be likely at delivery. 

Resuscitation efforts may include oxygen therapy, which involves providing a precise mixture and pressure of air with the oxygen saturation set at a specific rate based on how long after birth it is administered. Chest compressions are not often used on newborns. 

Medscape warns that if resuscitation is performed too vigorously, or if improper methods are used, it could lead to a rupture of the liver.