From a scientific perspective, perinatal means immediately before and after birth while hypoxia means oxygen deprivation in the tissues. Perinatal hypoxia can therefore be directly interpreted as oxygen deficiency in the tissues immediately before and after birth. However, the interpretation only provides an overview regarding the extent of medical complication that arise as a result of perinatal hypoxia. In some instances, a baby may stop breathing as a result of birth complications. Under such circumstances, lack of oxygen in the brain causes some of the brain cells to die which in turn could cause cerebral palsy.
Cause of Perinatal Hypoxia
There are several reasons why an infant may lack oxygen before and after birth. Some of the major causes of perinatal hypoxia include:
- Maternal anaemia
- Birth asphyxia
- Lack of adequate foetal monitoring
- Maternal smoking
- Traumatic brain damages
- Placental abruption
The above conditions can be diagnosed by a medical profession so as to reduce the risk factors associated with perinatal hypoxia. Lack of proper assessment and monitoring can lead to birth complications and C-section emergencies.
Effects of Perinatal Hypoxia
Perinatal hypoxia can lead to serious medical complications among infants that can otherwise affect the entire life of the infant or even cause death. One of the primary effect of perinatal hypoxia is severe brain damage that can cause entire body paralysis. An infant with perinatal hypoxia is likely to experience the full effect hypoxia including brain injuries 48hrs after birth. This means that the effect of perinatal hypoxia can be minimized if the situation is addressed with the first 48hrs after birth. Records at the U.S National Institute of Health indicate that perinatal hypoxia is responsible for approximately 1/3 of neonatal deaths.
Perinatal hypoxia can also cause other medical complications such as:
- Severe seizures
- Cerebral palsy
- Behavioural disorder
Treatment of Perinatal Hypoxia
When the word hypothermia is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is freezing. However, hypothermia is part of a medical process used in the treatment of perinatal hypoxia known as neonatal therapeutic hypothermia. Neonatal therapeutic hypothermia is a relatively new medical treatment method aimed at reducing the risk of severe brain damage among infants as well as slow down the progress of perinatal hypoxia.
How Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia Works
Previous studies have established that when people sustain injuries, they heal faster if the injury occurred when the body was cold. This concept gave researchers and physicians an idea of placing infants with perinatal hypoxia under lowered temperatures. Some level of urgency in treatment must be emphasized under neonatal therapeutic hypothermia treatment option because the brain cells begin to die due to lack of oxygen after a few minutes. Statistics at the National Institute of Health indicate that approximately 6 out of 1000 infants have perinatal hypoxia. Such babies do not only run the risk of severe brain damage but death. In neonatal therapeutic hypothermia, babies with perinatal hypoxia are placed under temperatures of around 33 °C for around 3 days. Clinical settings and resources available in a hospital greatly determine the survival and the extent of injuries of a baby.
Expert Opinion on Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia
Expert Opinion on neonatal therapeutic hypothermia indicates that this treatment is very effective when it comes to reducing severe brain damage. However, there are still no definite answers regarding how neonatal therapeutic hypothermia works.
Signs That an Infant Needs Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia
Once a baby is born, there are several warning signs that may necessitate the need for neonatal therapeutic hypothermia treatment that are attributed to perinatal hypoxia. Some of the signs include:
- Heart abnormalities
- Premature birth
- Delayed C-section
- Maternal oxygen deficiency before birth
- Fetal anemia
- Umbilical cord complications
- Problematic delivery
- Maternal preeclampsia
Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia Risk Factors
The reason why neonatal therapeutic hypothermia is recommended as the alternative treatment method for perinatal hypoxia is because the benefits of this treatment procedure outweigh the risks. However, this does not mean that there are no risk factors associated with the process. Recent studies indicate that neonatal therapeutic hypothermia increases the baseline heart rate for infants who undergo the medical procedure.