Surfactants help babies breathe in the womb
Surfactants are a very important part of the lungs of an unborn baby. These molecules are secreted by the mother during pregnancy and help a baby breathe in the womb. The amount of surfactant secreted by the mother will depend on her pregnancy and fetus. The higher the surfactant content of the mother’s amniotic fluid, the better her baby will be able to breathe outside of the womb.
Surfactants help babies breathe in the uterus, and a baby without enough surfactant may experience respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) or hyaline membrane disease. These conditions may be treated with a surfactant-replacement therapy. These treatments are most effective when begun within six hours after birth. Failure to begin treatment early can lead to the child’s death.
Umbilical cord supplies oxygen to developing fetus
The umbilical cord is an organ that supplies oxygen to the developing fetus in the uterus. It contains two arteries and a vein that transport deoxygenated fetal blood to the placenta and oxygenated blood back to the fetus. Each of these blood vessels serves a special physiologic purpose in supplying oxygen to the developing fetus.
A normal umbilical cord is approximately 20 inches long and an inch wide. It has three blood vessels, the arteries and veins. The vein carries the oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and the arteries return the waste products to the mother. The arteries and veins in the cord replace the oxygen in the blood and process wastes to provide nutrients for the developing fetus. The umbilical cord is often clamped soon after delivery. The cord can be cut by the mother or by her partner if she wishes.
Placenta is a multitasking wonder during labor and delivery
A mother’s placenta has many important functions during labor and delivery. First, it is a source of oxygen for the baby, which is practicing for its first big breath. When it comes to the time of delivery, the placenta is a multitasking marvel, working behind the scenes to prepare the child for life outside of the womb. A laborer may focus on hearing the baby’s first gasp of air, as it is a momentous feat.
During birth, a newborn may inadvertently inhale meconium
Meconium is a dark, green fecal material that a newborn passes shortly after birth. It is made up of cells, fats, and intestinal secretions, including bile. Some babies pass meconium during late pregnancy and birth, but inadvertent inhalation of meconium during birth can lead to serious health problems and even death.
The condition may cause severe breathing problems in a newborn, but it is preventable. Early detection with fetal monitoring is important. In addition, a special care team may be present during delivery to monitor the baby’s breathing. When meconium inhalation is suspected, doctors will perform suctioning in the mouth, nose, and throat. In some severe cases, doctors may insert a laryngoscope into the trachea to remove the meconium.
When a newborn inadvertently inhales meconium, it can cause inflammation of the lungs and may increase the risk of lung infection and persistent pulmonary hypertension. The baby may also show signs of respiratory distress, including drawing in the lower chest wall during breathing in and grunting during breathing out. There may also be a bluish or green tint to the baby’s skin. Some babies may also exhibit low blood pressure.