Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Breath of Life: How a Jetlag Treatment Could Prevent Permanent Newborn Brain Damage

baby

Childbirth causes short periods of time without access to oxygen for the baby. Permanent damage can occur if something goes wrong and the oxygen supply is low for too long.

By James Aridas

A common jetlag treatment in a simple skin patch could be the key to improving the lives of babies all around the world.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Every year, four million babies are born starved of oxygen. The consequences of this compromised birth are severe. Half of the babies do not make it past the first days or weeks of life, and those who do survive will most likely be severely disabled.

But sometimes the simplest answer is the best. We have been researching the use of melatonin in a skin patch to prevent permanent brain damage in the hours after birth.

A healthy baby grows in the uterus for 9 months. From a single cell, this future human will grow exponentially in size and complexity. By 3 months the placenta is providing nutrients, removing waste and exchanging gases between the baby and the mother.

Once the baby is fully developed, hormonal changes start the process of childbirth. As the uterus contracts, blood supply to the placenta is halted for short periods of time, cutting off the supply of oxygen. During the first moments outside of the uterus after the baby is delivered, it will begin to breathe and is no longer reliant on the placenta or mother for oxygen.

Childbirth thus causes short periods of time without access to oxygen for the baby. But just like how you can hold your breath for seconds at a time without causing any damage, the baby can handle these periods. However, permanent damage can occur if something goes wrong and the oxygen supply is low for too long....

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.