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Understanding perinatal asphyxia

| Apr 28, 2019 | Birth Injuries

Even though expecting parents in New York City understand that their babies are developing while still in the womb, much of what is actually going on with them is a mystery. Thus, they may not understand that even during the prenatal stage, a baby still needs those basic elements that every human being requires in order to survive. Chief among these is oxygen. During development, that oxygen is delivered to babies through their mothers’ oxygenated blood flow. Any disruption of that blood flow can lead to perinatal asphyxia. 

Most are likely familiar with the word “asphyxiation.” It is often more commonly referred to as suffocation or strangulation. When someone is asphyxiated, their brain is deprived of oxygen. This can result in the death of brain cells that control vital neurologic and bodily functions. Thus, even if one who suffers asphyxiation is revived, they may experience irreversible brain damage. 

The same can happen with babies in the womb (both before and during delivery). While information shared by the Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation shows that some of the causes of perinatal asphyxia are beyond anyone’s control (e.g. infection, anemia, hyper- or hypotension), many can be incident to delivery, such as: 

  • Prolonged delivery
  • Placental abruption
  • Issues with the umbilical cord

When the potential for perinatal asphyxiation is present, caretakers must take immediate action to help avoid serious injury

Just what would the long-term prognosis of a baby that suffers perinatal asphyxiation? Observational study results shared by the National Institutes of Health show that children who have suffered neonatal encephalopathy (disruption of brain function during birth) can be few (if any) long-term effects in mild cases to serious impairment of regular neuropsychological functions in those deemed severe. 

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