To witness the birth of a child is our best opportunity to experience the meaning of the word miracle
– Paul Carvel
In a matter of a few minutes, a baby goes from a liquid (called as amniotic fluid) breathing environment to that of air. And in this time frame, a whole lot of things have to go right.
Somewhere between the 24th and 28th week of the pregnancy, surfactant
– sometimes called “lung detergent” – starts being produced in the
amniotic fluid. As the pregnancy continues, more surfactant is produced.
That is why the closer to term, 38 to 40 weeks, the better a baby is
able to breathe outside the womb.
What is a surfactant ?
Surfactants are essentially
chemicals that reduce the surface tension of the fluid. (or) It is a
chemical that reduces the stiffness of a balloon.
If you reduce
the stiffness of the balloon, I think from personal experience you can
understand the breathing in becomes a lot easier!
Why is the surfactant important in the lungs?
Surfactant coats the inside of the lungs and keeps the alveoli, or air sacs, open by keeping them at the right pressure.
RDS ( Respiratory Distress Syndrome )
Babies that are born before prematurely do not have much of this surfactant in their lungs and as a result can suffer from something known as RDS – Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
A – Alveoli of a baby with RDS B – Healthy alveoli
With less surfactants in their lungs, some of the alveoli collapse due to the excess pressure.
If you remember this post on ‘Smaller Bubbles, Higher Pressure’, then you might know that the balloon with the smaller radius has the higher pressure and therefore collapses.
This is exactly what happens in the lungs of babies born prematurely as well, many of their alveolus collapse.
With less alveoli available, the infant has to work hard to breathe. He or she might not be able to breathe in enough oxygen to support the
body’s organs. The lack of oxygen can damage the baby’s brain and other
organs if proper treatment isn’t given.
Babies who have RDS are given surfactant until their lungs are able to start making the substance on their own.
That’s how simple physics blends with biology to yield elaborate ecstatic phenomenon that gears life. Have a great day!
Dedicated to my friend – SM!
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