Poor resuscitation of babies at birth and mismanaged neonatal jaundice could lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy, says a Consultant Paediatric Haematologist and Oncologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Prof. Edamisan Temiye,
According to the consultant, birth asphyxia – failure of a baby to cry immediately after birth and jaundice in the first week of life, are the two commonest causes of cerebral palsy in Nigeria.
The paediatrician noted that birth asphyxia is usually poorly managed in poor health facilities, especially when women deliver their babies in hospitals lacking maternal and child health experts and facilities.
He warned mothers to desist from giving their babies antibiotics and local concoctions when they have jaundice, stressing that mismanaged jaundice causes assault on the brain of the child.
He said, “Some of the causes of cerebral palsy may be genetic but most of them are caused by what happened in our environment.
“Cerebral palsy is an assault on the brain. It could be caused by infection during birth or after birth.
“The commonest cause of cerebral palsy in our environment is jaundice in babies which is completely preventable.
Jaundice in the first week of life can lead to brain damage.
“Another commonest cause of cerebral palsy is birth asphyxia -babies who did not cry at birth. These two are major causes of cerebral palsy in our environment.
“Jaundice is so prevalent in our environment in the first week of life and it is often mismanaged.
“Mothers go and buy antibiotics and prepare agbo and give them to their babies with jaundice instead of taking them to the hospital for appropriate treatment.”
The child care specialist noted that neonatal jaundice cannot be treated with antibiotics or local concoctions.
Giving insight into the dangers of mismanaging birth asphyxia, Prof. Temiye said, “Birth asphyxia happens when the oxygen supply to the baby is cut off either before birth or immediately after birth and if the baby was not properly resuscitated, it can lead to brain damage.
“Brain infection soon after birth can also cause cerebral palsy.
“Sometimes, you will see some babies growing very normally from six months to nine months, and then suddenly they no longer smile, crawl or walk.
“This often means that the development has been arrested. It is because there is something wrong with the brain.
“If it is not diagnosed and treated well, it can lead to cerebral palsy. Any assault to a developing brain leading to damage and causing the brain not to develop normally is cerebral palsy.”
Birth asphyxia is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘the failure to initiate and sustain breathing at birth’.
According to the WHO, it is a major contributor to neonatal mortality worldwide causing 24 per cent of all neonatal deaths and 11 per cent of deaths of children under five years of age.
“Almost all asphyxia-related deaths (98 per cent) occur during the first week of life.
“About 75 per cent of such deaths occur on the first day, and less than two per cent after 72 hours of birth,” WHO said.
Prof. Temiye stressed further that mothers should worry about the development of their babies when they are not showing affection such as smiling during breastfeeding at the age of two months.
“By one and half months, that is when we start noticing there is a problem with a baby.
The baby is supposed to smile and have a social smile.
“By six weeks of life, a baby is expected to smile when the mother is breastfeeding him or her. If the baby is not having a social smile and outward affection at this age, it means there is a problem with the brain.
“If by nine months, the baby is not crawling, there is a big problem and the parents should see a doctor,” he said.
He urged mothers to desist from acts and practices that are inimical to the normal growth and development of a child.