Measuring physiological changes during the transition to life after birth

Neonatology. 2014;105(3):230-42. doi: 10.1159/000356704. Epub 2014 Feb 6.


The transition to life after birth is characterized by major physiological changes in respiratory and hemodynamic function, which are predominantly initiated by breathing at birth and clamping of the umbilical cord. Lung aeration leads to the establishment of functional residual capacity, allowing pulmonary gas exchange to commence. This triggers a significant decrease in pulmonary vascular resistance, consequently increasing pulmonary blood flow and cardiac venous return. Clamping the umbilical cord also contributes to these hemodynamic changes by altering the cardiac preload and increasing peripheral systemic vascular resistance. The resulting changes in systemic and pulmonary circulation influence blood flow through both the oval foramen and ductus arteriosus. This eventually leads to closure of these structures and the separation of the pulmonary and systemic circulations. Most of our knowledge on human neonatal transition is based on human (fetal) data from the 1970s and extrapolation from animal studies. However, there is renewed interest in performing measurements directly at birth. By using less cumbersome techniques (and probably more accurate), our previous understanding of the physiological transition at birth is challenged, as well as the causes and consequences for when this transition fails to progress. This review will provide an overview of physiological measurements of the respiratory and hemodynamic transition at birth. Also, it will give a perspective on some of the upcoming technological advances in physiological measurements of neonatal transition in infants who are unable to make the transition without support.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / diagnosis
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / physiopathology
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / therapy
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Constriction
  • Coronary Circulation
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Placental Circulation
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary Circulation
  • Respiration*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Umbilical Cord / physiology*
  • Umbilical Cord / surgery