Skip to main content

A Do No Harm Technical Brief

Oxygen is important in the care of newborn infants because many conditions that affect babies in the first days of life can result in low levels of oxygen in the body. Hypoxemia, or low level of oxygen in the blood, is a life-threatening condition that results in increased mortality and morbidity. Prematurity and respiratory distress syndrome (surfactant deficiency), pneumonia and other severe infections, asphyxia and difficulties in the transition from fetal to neonatal life can all result in hypoxemia. Supplemental oxygen is an essential lifesaving treatment.

Access to appropriate oxygen therapy has been demonstrated to reduce death from childhood pneumonia and neonatal respiratory distress. Improved detection of hypoxemia and the safe administration of oxygen has resulted in a 35% reduction in the risk of death from childhood pneumonia in high-burden settings. Historically, the administration and delivery of oxygen with pressure that helps maintain lung inflation has resulted in a dramatic improvement in survival of premature infants. Oxygen therapy remains an essential element in the treatment of newborn respiratory distress, with specialized delivery methods being increasingly used in low and middle-income countries. This brief highlights the current evidence-based best practices and actions for safe and effective oxygen use for inpatient care of newborns.

The Every Preemie—SCALE project is pleased to share the Do No Harm Technical Brief Series. This series highlights the safe and effective use of specific inpatient newborn care interventions, with the guiding principle of “Do No Harm”. The briefs are designed to provide stakeholders with evidence-based information regarding safe and effective inpatient care in low-resource settings as an important step to avoid harm and improve health outcomes for newborns. See complete series here.