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Hypothermia

Extracted from Survival Guide to Midwifery, 2nd Edition (2012) Diane M. Fraser and Margaret A. Cooper, Oxford; Churchill Livingstone: 2012. Courtesy Elsevier

Hypothermia is defined as a core temperature below 36°C. This can cause complications such as:

  • Increased oxygen consumption (due to thermogenesis from brown fat stores)
  • Lactic acid production
  • Apnoea
  • Decrease in blood coagulability
  • Hypoglycaemia (most common)

When neonates are exposed to cold, they will at first become very restless, then as their body temperature falls, they adopt a tightly flexed position to conserve heat. The sick or preterm infant will tend to lie supine in a frog-like position that maximises heat loss.

At birth a baby's temperature can fall very rapidly. The healthy term baby will try to maintain temperature within the normal range but for a baby compromised at birth the additional stress of hypothermia can be disastrous.

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