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Blood pH link to babies' death risk

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Researchers have discovered that a low pH level in the blood of a baby’s umbilical cord links to a heightened risk of brain damage, cerebral palsy or death.

Following a study by the University of Birmingham, experts said the increased risk stems from some unborn babies’ lungs and kidneys failing to regulate their blood effectively.

The organs should work to ensure the blood does not become too acidic or alkaline, maintaining a healthy balance with a pH reading of 7.4.

A low pH could mean respiratory problems, with the baby suffering a lack of oxygen. This poses the risk - especially in small or premature babies - of hypoxia, the most common cause of brain damage.

Writing online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the research team describe how they analysed 51 studies involving more than 480,000 infants.

They found that babies whose umbilical cord blood had a low pH were 17 times more likely to die, 14 times more likely to suffer brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen and more than twice as likely to suffer cerebral palsy.

“Low arterial cord pH showed strong, consistent, and temporal associations with clinically important neonatal outcomes,” the researchers said.

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