When a child suffers from lack of oxygen immediately before or after birth, this is known as perinatal hypoxia. This is a very serious condition because only a few minutes of oxygen deprivation can result in cell death, brain damage, and infant mortality. In order to reduce the incidence of perinatal hypoxia and improve the health of newborns, scientists have done extensive research on the many causes of perinatal hypoxia. Generally these causes are organized into three categories: preplacental, uteroplacental, and postplacental.
Preplacental Perinatal Hypoxia Causes
Preplacental causes refer to diseases and disorder that reduce the amount of oxygen in the mother’s blood and the baby’s blood. In most cases, preplacental causes are diseases or health problems that the mother was already suffering from before becoming pregnant, once pregnant these conditions affect how much oxygen the baby receives.
A well understood preplacental cause of perinatal hypoxia is high altitude. In high altitude environments, there is less oxygen in the air, and so people have less oxygen in their blood. When someone is pregnant, the less oxygenated blood can result in perinatal hypoxia. The presence of different types of heart disease may also reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood for the mother and the baby. Some forms of heart disease that may cause perinatal hypoxia include cyanotic heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, and heart failure.
If the mother is suffering from anemia or a serious infection, this can also affect the amount of oxygen the developing fetus receives through the mother’s blood. Iron deficiency anemia, sickle cell anemia, and thalassemia can all cause hypoxia. Bronchitis and pneumonia in the mother may also contribute to oxygen deprivation in the developing fetus.
Uteroplacental Perinatal Hypoxia Causes
Uteroplacental causes are conditions that affect the oxygen in the placenta that is provided to the fetus. The mother does not have oxygen deficiency in her own blood, but because of an issue with the placenta, this oxygen is not reaching the baby. Preeclampsia, which is a disorder that affects the mother’s blood pressure and organs, may cause uteroplacental hypoxia. Uteroplacental hypoxia can also be caused by an inflammatory response between the maternal immune system, placenta, and developing fetus.
Postplacental Perinatal Hypoxia Causes
In postplacental hypoxia, the mother has oxygenated blood and there are no problems with oxygen in the placenta, but the fetus itself does not have enough oxygen in its blood. This typically occurs if there is some genetic abnormality or developmental problem in which the baby’s heart or circulatory system does not develop correctly. Malformation of the heart or a heart block can cause postplacental hypoxia. If the baby suffers an injury and this causes rupture or compression of its heart, this can also lead to hypoxia.
Maternal Smoking Perinatal Hypoxia Causes
Another potential cause of hypoxia is maternal smoking. Many studies have demonstrated that smoking and exposure to carbon monoxide will reduce the mother’s ability to deliver oxygen to the fetus. Smoking can reduce the amount of amniotic fluid, reduce blood flow, and cause preeclampsia—all three of which can affect the baby’s level of oxygen.
Birth Injury Perinatal Hypoxia Causes
When a baby is being born, there is a heightened risk of hypoxia. These are the first moments of breathing using their lungs, and if the baby is premature or undeveloped, his respiratory system may not be strong enough. In addition, if a labor is long and difficult, this may put more pressure on the baby’s body and result in hypoxia, brain damage, and even death. In extreme cases, perinatal hypoxia can be caused by malpractice of the physician if the delivery isn’t handled appropriately and completed in an acceptable amount of time.