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Birth asphyxia: causes of perinatal birth asphyxia

Updated on December 31, 2012

What is birth asphyxia

Pregnancy is one of the sensitive stages where proper medical treatment is required. The care is aimed towards health of both the mom and the baby.

The chances of baby asphyxia is growing now a days due to the life style of the mother, chances of preterm delivery and at times due to errors in health care system.

Asphyxia is a condition of impaired blood gas exchange between mother and the baby during pregnancy. This leads to insufficient oxygen and nutrient supply to baby.

At delivery the baby's brain is highly active to cope up the transition in environment from mothers womb to external climate.

So any deficiency in nutrition or oxygen supply to the brain at this point causes sever damage to the brain which can lead to problems in adult life of the victim with outcomes like mental retardation, learning deficiency, epilepsy and cerebral palsy like disorders.

The affected babies also may require long-term rehabilitation.

Types and causes of birth asphyxia

Based on the period of infliction, birth asphyxia is categorized as

Prenatal asphyxia: Asphyxia occurring within 5 months of pregnancy is termed prenatal asphyxia.

Perinatal asphyxia: Asphyxia occurring before 3 months of delivery to one month after delivery is termed perinatal asphyxia.

Postnatal asphyxia: Asphyxia occurring after one month of delivery is termed postnatal asphyxia.

Causes of birth asphyxia:

Asphyxia as mentioned earlier is due to improper oxygen and blood supply to the brain and other body regions of the baby either in the womb or outside the womb.

Related to mother: Insufficient oxygen saturation in blood, anemia, to insufficient oxygen supply to mother, placental complications, interrupted blood flow to fetus, ethanol consumption during pregnancy; psychic stress etc can contribute to birth asphyxia.

In neonate: it can be due to lack of lung transition for breathing at delivery, cardiac abnormalities, inactivity of infant’s respiratory centre due to toxins.

Clinically:Due to anesthetics, analgesics used during labor which can cause respiration inactivity, meconium aspiration where in fetal contents get into respiratory tract during delivery.

Effects of Birth asphyxia

Anoxic injury occurs most devastatingly in brain compared to other organs as it is highly dependent on oxygen supply. This injury in brain may cause disturbances in baby's health by leading to seizures of static epilepticus type, oculomotor disturbances, disturbed sucking, swallowing and tongue movements.

In the long term, mental retardation and spastic para-paresis (immobility of limbs) occur.This damage in neonates leads to development of mental retardation, learning deficits, epilepsy and cerebral palsy like disorders in their adult life. These asphyxic survivors even require longterm rehabilitation.


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