Birth asphyxia is said to occur when there is a lack of oxygen supply to an infant before, during or just after birth. This condition is also called asphyxia neonatorum.
Such deprivation of oxygen can have a long-lasting impact on the brain, heart, liver and kidneys of the infant. The maximum damage, however, is caused to the infant’s brain. Such brain damage may be irreversible, and may lead to developmental delays, cognitive disabilities, and conditions like cerebral palsy.
Blood flow to the infant can be affected if there a sudden drop in the mother’s blood pressure during delivery. A drop in maternal blood pressure can be the result of poor placental function, which can disrupt the supply of oxygen. Babies of women who suffer from cardiac or respiratory problems can also be at a risk of lower oxygen supply, and consequently, severe brain injury.
There may be other physiological conditions that constrict the oxygen supply. For instance, when a woman’s uterus has not relaxed properly, it can starve off the oxygen supply to the baby. A baby’s supply of oxygen is also impacted during placenta abruption, or the early separation of the placenta from the uterus. In such cases, the baby is at risk of suffocation from the umbilical cord. In such cases, an emergency C-section must be performed as quickly as possible
An infant who suffers disrupted oxygen supply during the delivery process may not be able to establish respiration after birth. In such cases, doctors and nurses must begin procedures to establish respiration as quickly as possible. Delays can lead to long-term brain damage or even death.
Many of the conditions that cause birth asphyxia can be prevented and resolved through regular monitoring during delivery, and emergency measures to establish respiration soon after delivery.