Every baby is different: when baby books tell you that newborns sleep on an average of 16-18 hours a day for the first few weeks or months, it’s up to you as a parent to take this as a guide, but to also refrain from panicking if they sleep a little longer or a little less. Another expectation is that newborns are limp little humans who don’t move around much in their first few weeks of life.
Both expectations are natural, however, if you have a sense that your child is maybe too lethargic or if the sleep is so deep that you’re concerned about him or her waking up, you may have a problem on your hands. Take a look at a few birth injuries related to lethargy or lack of consciousness to make sure your child is healthy.
Anoxia or Hypoxia
Anoxia and hypoxia both describe oxygen deprivation to your child’s brain and body. Anoxia means that there is no oxygen at all, and hypoxia means that there is little oxygen –and both are bad for your child’s brain health. Anoxia and hypoxia are disappointingly common in difficult labors (due to difficult labor, a long labor, or a prolapse umbilical cord kinked) and your child’s system can be reeling from the oxygen deprivation.
Some physicians have now worked on making more acceptable the previously experimental method of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the process of putting the baby in a chamber and exposing him or her to 100% oxygen. Often this can reverse the oxygen deprivation, keeping lethargy or lack of consciousness from plaguing the baby therafter.
When a child has been deprived of oxygen for long periods of time, the brain reacts in certain ways. Anoxia or hypoxia can cause a blood vessel to burst in the brain, causing the brain to flood with blood, thus causing other blood vessels to essentially drown. Lack of consciousness or lethargy is one of the symptoms, and other symptoms of this birth injury include difficulty swallowing, nausea or vomiting, weakness in one arm or leg, or seizures.
Another form of brain damage is a birth injury called brain ischemia. Brain ischemia is a response of anoxia or hypoxia as an opposite to a brain hemorrhage: instead of the brain being flooded with blood, brain ischemia is when the brain doesn’t have enough blood due to oxygen deprivation. While many of the symptoms are similar to that of a brain hemorrhage (seizures, weakness in one arm or leg, lethargy, or lack of consciousness), another symptom could be a complete loss of movement in certain limbs as the brain ischemia causes an energy crisis in the brain.
As all of these birth injuries are related to brain damage, it’s important to draw a connection between oxygen deprivation, too much blood, or too little blood to the consciousness of a child. If your child had difficulty breathing in the perinatal period (just before, during, and after delivery), it’s important to keep monitoring that child to ensure that he or she doesn’t exhibit any symptoms of brain damage.