If your baby is born before the lungs have matured, he may develop respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). A baby with RDS has trouble breathing because the lungs tend to collapse with each breath. Most babies recover completely within the first weeks of life. Almost all babies who have RDS grow up to be healthy, normal children. RDS does not cause brain damage or long-term problems with learning, growth, or behavior.
Babies usually start making a substance called surfactant sometime between the 30th and 36th weeks of pregnancy. Surfactant helps keep the air sacs in the lungs from sticking to each other when your baby breathes after birth. RDS can happen if your baby is born without enough surfactant in the lungs. It is most common in babies born before 37 weeks.
Symptoms may include:
Symptoms are usually seen right after the birth. Your baby’s provider will examine your baby. Tests may include:
The treatment is to help your baby breathe until he outgrows the problem.
Your baby will be attached to a monitor that constantly measures oxygen level, heart rate, and breathing rate.
Your baby may be given artificial surfactant to help keep the airways open. He may also be given fluids and medicine by IV.
Your baby will be given warm, moist oxygen. Your baby may need a breathing machine for a few days or weeks.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
If your healthcare provider thinks that your baby is going to be born early, your provider may do a test of fluid from the bag of fluid around your baby to see if your baby is making surfactant. Based on the test results, your provider may prescribe medicine that will help your baby start making more surfactant before birth.