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Hem When a newborn has trouble breathing, is my child deprived of oxygen?

When a newborn has trouble breathing, is my child deprived of oxygen?

Training in resuscitating newborns

This post is also available in: Svenska

In the mother’s womb, a baby does not need to be able to breathe. Oxygenation occurs through the placenta. Once the umbilical cord is cut, this no longer works and the newborn must start breathing. Most newborns start breathing, but some need help getting started.

Fetuses in a mom’s womb only breathes when they feel really good

In a mom’s womb, large fetuses occasionally train to breathe. You can see this on an ultrasound. This is only the case in babies who have a jolly, good time inside of mom. They have so much energy that they can “waste” it on something not quite necessary. If they are getting less oxygen through the umbilical cord though, they can save energy by not breathing. Quite rightly because breathing has nothing to do with the oxygenation of blood for babies in the womb.

In the womb, babies have fluid in their lungs

The lungs’ air sacs are filled with pulmonary fluid and not air. The pulmonary fluid must be removed in order for the lungs to fill with air and start working.

A baby who suffers from oxygen deficiency at the end of childbirth, often does not breathe by themselves.

Babies who get too little oxygen at the end of childbirth, will have formed lactic acid in the muscles during childbirth. When they come out, they are completely depleted by the lactic acid. The respiratory center of the brain reacts as it did while in the womb, it stops breathing to save energy.

It’s important to start breathing when the umbilical cord is cut

Babies who are affected by mild or more severe oxygen deficiency, do not begin breathing by themselves. When the umbilical cord is cut, it’s important for the baby to start breathing. Otherwise, the baby gets no oxygen and can’t get rid of the lactic acid. In addition, air is needed in the lungs to push out the amniotic fluid.

Giving newborns artificial respirator saves many lives

When a child does not start breathing on their own, the medical staff will help. This is when the midwife runs away with the baby and places them on a warm nursery table. A artificial respirator for babies is given via a breathing mask until the baby starts breathing independently. The midwife calls the pediatrician and pediatric nurse who comes and takes over if this all takes longer than a few minutes.


It is like magic every time. A very lifeless and bleached child with a slight lack of oxygen and low or no heart rate needs assistance to start breathing. The heart rate rises and the child begins to breathe themselves. The skin first turns blue, and then pink, and after some time the child bends their arms and legs, starts screaming for mom’s comfort.

Children with very severe oxygen deficiency after a placenta detachment; ruptured uterus; misinterpreted fetal monitoring; or shoulders that are completely trapped for a long time, risk worse things happening. But they are extremely few compared to the babies the midwife borrows for ten or fifteen minutes from the mother (the other parent accompanies with the baby in hand) and returns healthy and rosy.

Read more about first time childbirth here. 

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