What is Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)?

Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is also known as Hyaline membrane disease (HMD).  It is one of the most common breathing issues that can affect premature babies.

Between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation, a foetus begins producing “surfactant” in his or her lungs. Surfactant is a slippery, protective substance produced by cells in the airways and contains phospholipids and proteins. Sufficient amounts of surfactant are extremely important because they help keep the alveoli open during the oxygen/carbon dioxide transfer in the lungs. If there are insufficient amounts then alveoli will collapse. The cells that produce the surfactant are hyaline membranes. Usually by 35 weeks, a foetus has developed enough surfactant for his or her lungs to function normally.

It can also be the result of genetic problems with lung development.

Symptoms usually begin within minutes of birth, although they may not be seen for several hours. If treatment is not administered, the baby will eventually stop trying to breathe.

Symptoms

  • Bluish colour of the skin and mucus membranes
  • Briefly stopping breathing
  • Decreased urine output
  • Nasal flaring
  • Puffy or swollen arms or legs
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Shortness of breath and grunting sounds while breathing

Respiratory Distress Syndrome affects babies of all nationalities and cultures, however males are more often affected than girls

© Sue Edmondson of Prem2Pram the online premature baby store

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