Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is most commonly seen in premature infants. The condition makes it difficult to breathe.
Hyaline membrane disease; Infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS); Respiratory distress syndrome in infants; RDS - infants
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Neonatal RDS occurs in infants whose lungs have not yet fully developed.
The disease is mainly caused by a lack of a slippery, protective substance called surfactant, which helps the lungs inflate with air and keeps the air sacs from collapsing. This substance normally appears in fully developed lungs.
Neonatal RDS can also be the result of genetic problems with lung development.
The earlier a baby is born, the less developed the lungs are and the higher the chance of neonatal RDS. Most cases are seen in babies born before 28 weeks. It is very uncommon in infants born full-term (at 40 weeks).
In addition to prematurity, the following increase the risk of neonatal RDS:
- A brother or sister who had RDS
- Diabetes in the mother
- Cesarean delivery
- Delivery complications that reduce blood flow to the baby
- Multiple pregnancy (twins or more)
- Rapid labor
The risk of neonatal RDS may be decreased if the pregnant mother has chronic, pregnancy-related high blood pressure or prolonged rupture of membranes, because the stress of these situations can cause the infant's lungs to mature sooner.
Review Date: 05/09/2011
Reviewed By: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.