Birth Asphyxia

Birth AsphyxiaInfant asphyxia refers to a situation whereby a baby does not get enough oxygen to the brain. One of the reasons why infant asphyxia is sometimes fatal is because this disorder is not detected early enough and thus the adverse effects of asphyxia are not otherwise prevented. It is therefore recommended that early detection and treatment be undertaken before infant asphyxia has any serious impact on the general health of infants.

Early signs of asphyxia can be detected through several medical procedures such as the blood gas tests as well as testing the same from the umbilical cord. Another rather obvious way that physicians detect infant asphyxia is when the oxygen levels in the blood are extremely low which at times leads to the blood becoming acidic. The effects of asphyxia are primarily dependent on how long a baby has lacked adequate oxygen in the blood and the brain, although in all cases, medical professionals must seek to confirm or deny the existence of problems should asphyxia of any time period be suspected.

However, severe asphyxia poses an even greater challenge for medical personnel as babies with more advanced asphyxia require advanced treatment methods such as mechanical ventilation and respiratory therapy.

Specific treatment procedures are based on several factors that include;

  • The age of the baby as well as the overall medical history
  • The severity of infant asphyxia, including suspected in almost all cases involving infants
  • The infant’s ongoing additional medical issues or complications as part of the birth process
  • The expected results at the end of the medication

Some of the basic treatment procedures include;

  • Providing additional oxygen to the mother in order to increase maternal oxygen levels in the blood pre-birth
  • C-section delivery as an immediate and emergency remedy to aspyxia
  • Mechanical ventilation that supports both the breathing and the blood pressure of the infant post-birth
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

High-Frequency Ventilation

High frequency ventilation is perhaps the most common method in infant asphyxia treatment. This method is considered a little safer compared to other methods used. The method involves a gentle but coordinated breathing assistance that sends small puffs of air into the lungs. High frequency ventilation is in most cases preferred in place of conventional breathing machines that at times exert high pressure that would subsequently destroy a baby’s lungs.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

An extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine is used for babies who have sever infant asphyxia. Severe asphyxia is characterised by serious lung and heart failures. In application, the machine is used as an artificial lung whereby it delivers oxygen into the baby’s blood and removing carbon dioxide from the blood that is already drained from the body. This blood is then pumped back into the body after oxygen is added.

Inhaled Nitric Oxide

Inhaled nitric oxide is an alternative method used to treat infant asphyxia through the treatment of any respiratory failure and other breathing complications such as pulmonary hypertension. This form of treatment is delivered into the body through a breathing pipe that is inserted directly into the windpipe. The nitric oxide assists in the dilation of the lungs so that oxygenation can take place.


During the advanced stages of infant asphyxia, infants run the risk of serious brain damage due to lack of oxygen in the brain. Under such circumstances, hypothermia is the best alternative treatment for infant asphyxia. During hypothermia, infants are kept under internal body temperatures of 33.5 degrees C which is equivalent to 91 degrees. The internal body temperatures are regulated for a maximum period of 72hrs thus an infant is able to regain normal oxygen levels to the brain through a process known as reperfusion. However, hypothermia is a very specific process as it is more effective when conducted less than 10 hours after birth.


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