Newborn Breathing Conditions
Newborn Breathing Conditions

Newborn Breathing Conditions Types

Different conditions can cause a baby to have trouble breathing shortly after birth.

Transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN)

Transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN) is the most commonly diagnosed breathing condition in newborns.

Before a baby is born, their lungs are filled with fluid. In most babies, this fluid goes away shortly after birth, but sometimes it does not go away as quickly as it should. This causes TTN., Your baby may be at higher risk for TTN if you have diabetes, asthma, or a cesarean delivery (c-section) without going into labor.1 With the right treatment, TTN usually gets better by the time the baby is 3 days old.1

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)

Respiratory distress syndrome affects most babies who are born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. This is because newborns born prematurely are not able to make enough surfactant. Surfactant is a foamy substance that keeps the lungs fully expanded so that newborns can breathe in air once they are born. It also keeps the lungs open so when the baby breathes out, the lungs do not collapse. Without it, the lungs collapse and the newborn must work harder to breathe. Respiratory distress syndrome, also known as lung disease of prematurity, may develop over time into a more serious and persistent condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) that requires oxygen, a ventilator, or medicines to help with breathing.

Learn about respiratory distress syndrome and bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)

Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) causes high pressure in the blood vessels of a newborn’s lungs, which makes it hard for them to take oxygen into the blood from air they breathe in. This leads to breathing difficulty and fast breathing rate.

For most babies, after taking their first few breaths after birth, air rushes into the lungs, bringing in oxygen that helps the blood vessels in the lungs relax. This helps blood to flow easily. When blood flows through the lungs, it picks up oxygen that is needed throughout the body. In newborns with PPHN, the blood vessels in the lungs do not relax in response to the oxygen in air, and blood cannot easily move past the air pockets in the lungs to pick up oxygen as it flows by. Depending on how severe the tightness of the blood vessels is and what is causing PPHN, your child may need short-term intensive medical support and medicines. Long-term effects of PPHN include decreased ability to exercise and other disabilities such as poor lung and heart function, as well as learning difficulties.


Pneumonia is an infection of the lung caused by bacteria , viruses , or fungi . Newborns may experience symptoms that range from mild to serious depending on the cause and how quickly treatment is started.1

Learn about pneumonia and its symptoms in people of all ages.


Apnea is when a baby stops breathing for several seconds at a time. This can cause a baby’s heart to beat more slowly (bradycardia) and they can turn pale or a bluish color (cyanotic). There are many causes of apnea, and, in some babies, providers cannot find an exact cause. In that case, the baby may need to be placed on a monitoring device that alerts about every event, even short pauses that get better on their own. Talk to your baby’s provider to find out how long your baby needs to be monitored. Most often, apnea is a temporary condition that will get better over time.3

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