Research recently released by Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm shows that infants of women who received substandard care during labor had three times greater risks of having an inadequate supply of oxygen to the fetus. Known as asphyxia, it can lead to a newborn's brain injury or even death.

Based on all births in Stockholm County between 2004-2006 - which represented 24% (74,539) of all births in Sweden during this time - the study examined the impact of substandard care during labor and delivery on infants' resulting health. Risk factors and handling of 313 infants with signs of asphyxia at birth (at five minutes of age) were compared to 313 healthy control infants.

"There was substandard care during labor in two thirds of infants born with signs of asphyxia, and in one third of healthy infants," reported the main report author, Dr. Sophie Berglund.

When there was substandard care during labor, the risk was three times that normal risk for an infant to show signs of asphyxia at five minutes of age. The main reasons for substandard care were related to misinterpretation of the devices that monitor and record fetal heartbeat and uterine contractions during childbirth, not acting immediately upon an abnormal readings and misuse of oxytocin.

Emphasizing the importance of reacting promptly to signs of asphyxia, researchers called for educational efforts among physicians and midwives to improve equipment interpretation and fetal surveillance.

"The main reasons for substandard care are factors that, in theory, are possible to prevent, and in practice, should be possible to reduce through educational efforts and increased awareness of risk factors associated with risk of asphyxia," asserted Dr. Berglund.

Source: Karolinska Institutet - www.ki.se