Perinatal Asphyxia

What is perinatal asphyxia?

Perinatal asphyxia, or birth asphyxia, results from an inadequate intake of oxygen by the baby during the birth process — before, during or just after birth. Decreased oxygen intake can result in chemical changes in the baby's body that include hypoxemia, or low levels of oxygen in the blood, and acidosis, in which too much acid builds up in the blood.


Symptoms of birth asphyxia may not be obvious, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Before birth, abnormal fetal heart rate and low pH levels, indicating too much acid
  • At birth, poor skin color, low heart rate, weak muscle tone, gasping or weak breathing and meconium stained amniotic fluid


  • Severe acid levels
  • Apgar score of 0 to 3 for longer than five minutes
  • Evidence of neurologic problems, including coma and seizure
  • Problems with one or more organ systems, including circulatory, digestive and respiratory


Treatment may include:

  • Giving the mother extra amounts of oxygen before delivery
  • Emergency delivery or cesarean section
  • Mechanical breathing machine
  • Medication

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