Hypoxia occurs when there is an inadequate supply of oxygen received to the body’s tissues. This deficient oxygen supply will expose a fetus to the increased likelihood of serious brain injury. Harmful effects can occur as a result of even partial oxygen disruption. Cognitive, physical, and psychological functioning can be impaired when a baby’s oxygen supply is adversely affected.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hypoxia?

Because the signs of hypoxia may be difficult to detect, as they may develop gradually, medical professionals should be alert to watch for rapid breathing, lethargy, or a purplish discoloration of the skin. These professionals should competently handle complications of childbirth as they occur. Because of the sensitivity of the brain to its supply of oxygen, the condition must be treated immediately.

Causes of Hypoxia during Childbirth

As labor progresses, the umbilical cord may become trapped between the wall of the uterus and the baby’s head. The placenta may break away from the uterine wall, causing a ruptured uterus. A mother may have a history of heart disease, diabetes, or preeclampsia. These risk factors should alert medical professionals to keep careful watch on the condition of the fetus during labor and delivery, so that immediate action can be taken if signs of fetal distress appear.

How is Hypoxia Treated?

Health care professionals are responsible for exercising care throughout labor and delivery. They have such tools available to them as the electronic fetal monitor, which is used to follow the condition of the fetus as labor progresses. Fetal tracings will show any sudden decrease in the baby’s heart rate, alerting staff of the possible need for immediate action. Infants suffering from a lack of oxygen at birth can be exposed to an effective therapy involving cooling of either the infant’s head or entire body. These infants are shown to have a greater chance of reducing their risk of death or permanent brain damage. Most importantly, immediate action must be taken once signs of fetal distress are demonstrated.

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