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Newborn and Infant Care

Side effects



I was searching your site for information on complications from a child being stuck in the birth canal. My son was in the fluids in my birth canal for over 3 hours; hence, when he was born he had trouble breathing and was in an incubator for a few days followed by NICU. He is now a year old and seems to be alert and healthy. My question is are there any known side affects from a situation like mine that I should be watching?


The most common problem to worry about are the side effects of asphyxiation, or poor blood flow to the brain such that the brain is starved for oxygen and glucose or blood sugar for a period of time. from your description of his birth, it sounds as though your son may have suffer ed some degree of asphyxiation at birth since he required care in newborn intensive care for a few days.  What is not clear is whether he was born early or needed extra oxygen or help with breathing from a ventilator or breathing machine. If he was born early, he may have needed the incubator just to help maintain his body temperature. I can't tell from what you have written.

If he only needed a few days care and has been well since then, it would seem that he is a very lucky baby who received excellent care and is doing just fine. Usually, we would look for problems in development to indicate that a baby suffered significant asphyxia. Common problems include hearing loss, delays in achieving the ability to sit, roll over, stand, and walk, delays in speech related to hearing loss, too much tone or stiffness in his body or too little tone and floppiness, and seizures. Also, these babies commonly have trouble maintaining long periods or alertness and may be excessively irritable, crying or fussing for more than 2 hours each day.

If your son has none of these problems, that is wonderful and a very positive sign. However, it is often difficult to tell in the first 2 years of life whether there was any damage that can make learning difficult for the child because we can't measure well those brain functions that tell us a problem is likely. The fact that he is alert and doing well is very positive but not conclusive evidence that no harm was done. For many children such as your son, learning problems are not clear until second or third grade.

I would encourage you to carefully watch his development and if you are concerned that he is lagging behind in language, speech, big muscle skills or the use of his hands and eyes together to do fine tasks such as stacking blocks and doing puzzles, ask your son's doctor to evaluate his development using a structured developmental screen and to refer you to early intervention services. These federally mandated services will assure that your son has several thorough evaluations to identify any developmental delays and provide him with services to help his development. If you live in Ohio, you can refer yourself to Ohio's Help Me Grow program where early intervention services are located. Their website is www.ohiohelpmegrow.org. All of the contact numbers for each of Ohio's 88 counties are located on this site as well as lots of good developmental information.

Also, enroll your son in a good preschool when he is three years old. If he experiences problems, go to your local school and request an evaluation of his development in writing. Schools must respond in two weeks time. A verbal request is not effective. It must be dated and in writing and presented to the school principal.

A big milestone such as a first birthday brings back many memories and sometimes worries. As a concerned mother, I know you will stay on top of your son's development and be his best advocate! I hope this is helpful information.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University