2.4  Birth asphyxia

As a Health Extension Practitioner you might be the only person present able to help the baby start breathing and prevent complications caused through lack of oxygen to the brain in the first few minutes after delivery. You therefore have an important role in the early moments and hours after birth. After completing this section you will understand the causes of birth asphyxia and be able to assess, classify and manage a newborn baby for birth asphyxia.

You may recall that you first learned about birth asphyxia in Study Session 7 of the Labour and Delivery Care Module. You should remember that birth asphyxia is when the baby receives too little oxygen because it does not begin or sustain adequate breathing at birth. Birth asphyxia can occur for many reasons. For example:

During pregnancy the mother may have:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes
  • Infection
  • Asthma.

During delivery complications may include:

  • Preterm labour
  • Prolonged or obstructed labour
  • Cord coming down in front of the baby (prolapsed cord)
  • Placenta covering, or partially covering, the cervix instead of being near the top of the uterus where it should be (placenta praevia)
  • Detached placenta (placental abruption).

There are also other factors such as the baby being born preterm or post-term, the mother having had multiple gestations, or cord or placenta problems which prevent blood flow to the baby.

If you need to remind yourself about these problems, you should go back to Study Sessions 17–21 in the Antenatal Care Module, and Study Sessions 7–11 in the Labour and Delivery Care Module.

2.3  Newborn danger signs

2.4.1  Assess and classify birth asphyxia