What is Asphyxia?

At asphyxia, there is a lack of oxygen in the baby, during and / or immediately after birth. There can be various causes for this, but in most cases the cause can be found in a disturbed oxygen supply from the placenta.
In principle, asphyxia can occur at any age, but this term is usually only used for oxygen deficiencies that have occurred during pregnancy and / or birth.

Asphyxia literally means 'do not breathe'. It is fairly common in newborn children. It is estimated at about 10% to 15%.

Causes asphyxia

Common causes are releasing placenta (placenta) or tearing of the uterus (uterus), umbilical cord entanglement and infections. Previously, the apgar score was used to define asphyxia. Today, umbilical cord blood gas values ​​are considered a proof of asphyxia.


Asphyxia can also occur if the fetus is abnormally in the womb, or if there is stool (meconium) in the amniotic fluid and it has been inhaled. Meconium is very tough and tarry so the baby can not or hardly breathe anymore. A doctor or obstetrician must properly suck the baby's lungs and ensure that breathing is restarted as soon as possible.

Possible consequences

As a direct result of the shortage of oxygen, the energy management of organs is at risk. The brain, kidneys and liver and intestine are very sensitive to the energy shortage. Newborns with asphyxia may develop epileptic seizures in the first days after birth. In some children, breathing and cardiac function should be supported with equipment and medication after birth. As a result of asphyxia, serious, permanent damage to the brain can occur. This can lead to limitations. Perinatal asphyxia is one of the leading causes of chronic disability in childhood.

Video: Asphyxia ( Meaning & Mechanism) - by Dr Sunil Duchania

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