What Does it Mean if Your Baby is Born Blue?


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If your baby is born blue, it can be one of the most frightening things you will ever witness. Sometimes, babies are born blue but as soon as they take their first breath, they become a healthy color. Other babies might have more difficulty. If your baby isn't moving, or is barely moving at all, that could be a sign that they are struggling to get air.

The child might seem floppy, without good muscle tone, or simply lie flat. The baby might not cry, or could have a very weak cry, similar to that of a kitten. These other symptoms are especially important for babies with darker skin tones- where "blueness" might not be apparent.

If your child is born blue, there is bound to be a great deal of action in the delivery room. There will be many people working on your child and trying to get it to breathe properly. You may overhear the nurses or doctors talking about the baby, expressing concern about the breathing issues or the heart rate.  The baby might even be whisked out of the room before you have a chance to spend any time with it. 

What might cause a child to be born blue or with poor color?

There could be many reasons why a child is born blue or with a poor skin color.  Labor and delivery is a stressful event for both mother and child.  During the process, the child might not receive enough oxygen, or the heart rate might have slowed - both of these can cause a baby to be blue upon birth.  Problems with the birth itself, such as a baby who gets stuck in the birth canal, or a compressed umbilical cord, could lead to a baby with respiratory distress.  Difficulties with establishing an airway upon birth might be an issue as well.

The mother's condition during labor and delivery, as well as how it was managed, can also be a factor.  High or low blood pressure, high or low blood sugar, or other issues that are present during the pregnancy, labor and delivery require careful management by the treating physicians to avoid problems for the child.  During labor, narcotics given to the mother might depress a baby's respiration and heart rate, and that also can lead to a blue tint or pale color to the skin.

What kind of long-term problems can this cause? 

A child who is born blue might suffer from problems immediately after birth or later in life, including motor deficits, limited intellectual abilities, or problems with walking properly, if this situation isn't promptly recognized and properly managed.  Significant lack of oxygen often leads to serious health consequences, including those that might make a child dependent upon the parents for care for the rest of its life.  A child suffering from severe oxygen deprivation could also pass away from the damage done during those first few minutes of life. 

If your child has suffered from oxygen deprivation, or you know someone whose baby was born blue, it might be worth seeking advice from a professional on how to deal with the long-term consequences as malpractice may be the culprit. 

About the Author

A leading physician and national medical expert, Dr. Charles H. Bowers, Jr., joined Ross Feller Casey’s Medical Forensic Evaluations Department in 2012.

Charles Bowers

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