Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome occurs if the lungs of a newborn are not fully developed and could not provide adequate oxygen. Generally, it affects premature infants.
The condition typically occurs if there is not adequate surfactant in the lungs. The substance is composed of fats and proteins that ensure that the lungs are inflated as well as prevents the air sacs from collapsing. An infant generally starts producing surfactant between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy where most can produce enough to breathe normally by week 34.
In case an infant was born prematurely, he/she might not have enough surfactant in the lungs. In some cases, the condition develops in infants that are not prematurely born but due to other risk factors such as:
- Mother is diagnosed with diabetes
- Poor lung development that can be triggered by various ailments
- Infant is underweight
What are the indications?
The indications of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome are often evident right after birth and worsen over the following days such as:
- Nasal flaring
- Bluish lips, toes and fingers
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Grunting sound while breathing
Since premature infants are born in a healthcare facility, most with neonatal respiratory distress syndrome are treated.
Management of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome
Many infants with neonatal respiratory distress syndrome require assistance with breathing with extra oxygen and possibly with ventilator support.
Babies who require ventilation can be managed with the introduction of an artificial surfactant that is given straight into the lungs which helps reinstate normal lung functioning.
In some cases, the condition can be prevented or at least lessen the severity by treating the mother with betamethasone before birth.