Monday, July 09, 2007

Birth asphyxia

A new paper on birth asphyxia in the developing world provides insight into the inherent dangers of childbirth. Reducing one million child deaths from birth asphyxia – a survey of health systems gaps and priorities was published in Health Research Policy and Systems in May of this year. Birth asphyxia is defined as: "the full-term baby who is not breathing and in poor condition at birth with an assumed association to acute intrapartum events."

The magnitude of the problem is huge:
Birth asphyxia is the fifth largest cause of under-five child deaths (8.5%), after pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal infections and complications of preterm birth. Birth asphyxia accounts for an estimated 0.92 million neonatal deaths annually and is associated with another 1.1 million intrapartum stillbirths, as well as an unknown burden of long-term neurological disability and impairment... [B]irth asphyxia plus intrapartum stillbirths constitute the number-one cause of child and late fetal deaths.
In nature, therefore, birth asphyxia represents a major cause of child deaths. As a cause of perinatal mortality, it is exceeded only by prematurity. The claim by "natural" childbirth advocates, the birth is inherently safe, is belied by the fact that death from birth asphyxia is quite common.

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