Transient tachypnea is a very fast breathing rate. It happens in newborns that have too much fluid in their lungs. The fluid limits the amount of oxygen these newborns pull into their lungs. As a result, the baby needs to breathe at a faster rate to get enough oxygen.
Babies born with this condition usually recover within 3 days of birth. Transient tachypnea can be easily treated but will need care from a doctor.
During pregnancy, a baby’s lungs are filled with fluid. Chemical signals just before birth will start to clear the fluid out of the lung. Then, physical pressures during labor and birth will push more fluid out. After birth, the baby may also cough some of the fluid out of the lungs. The baby's first breaths should clear out any remaining fluid. Some newborns are not able to clear enough fluid from their lungs. The fluid blocks some oxygen from moving from the lungs to the blood. The low levels of oxygen cause transient tachypnea.
Fluid might not clear from lungs quickly enough if:
- The baby doesn’t respond well to the chemical signals during labor
- Fluid isn’t squeezed out of the lungs in the birth canal
Transient tachypnea is more common in newborn boys. Factors that may increase your baby’s chance of transient tachypnea include:
Transient tachypnea may cause:
- Rapid, labored breathing (over 60 breaths per minute)
- Grunting or moaning sounds when exhaling
- Flaring of the nostrils
- Retractions—with each breath, the chest appears to sink in between the ribs or under the ribcage
- Cyanosis—skin around the mouth and nose has a bluish tinge
The doctor will look at your pregnancy and labor history. A physical exam of your baby will be done.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Blood cultures
- Chest x-ray
- Pulse oximetry—an oxygen sensor is placed on the baby’s foot to determine how much oxygen is making it into the blood from the lungs
Transient tachypnea may not be diagnosed until the symptoms go away. This may not be until 3 days after birth.
The main treatment for this condition is supportive care and close monitoring. This may include:
- Supplemental oxygen—Oxygen may be given through a mask, a tube that passes under the nose, or a tent. This extra oxygen will lower the workload on the lungs.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)—A tube is placed under the baby’s nose. The tube is attached to a breathing machine. The machine pushes a continuous flow of air or oxygen into the airways. This will help keep the airways open.
- Antibiotics—IV antibiotics may be given until test results are back. The antibiotic will be stopped if the tests do not show an infection.
- Supplemental feedings—IV feedings may be used to delivers fluids, glucose, and electrolytes.
- Ventilator support—A ventilator may be used if a baby is really struggling to breathe. This machine will help or take over breathing for the baby.
A day or 2 after birth, the baby’s breathing should improve. By the third day of life, all symptoms of transient tachypnea should disappear.
There are no guidelines for preventing transient tachypnea because the exact cause is not known. There are several things you can do to help give birth to a healthy baby:
- Eat a healthful diet. Aim for a diet low in saturated fats and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Have regular prenatal check-ups as advised.
- Don’t smoke. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can quit.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
- Review Date: 09/2018 -
- Update Date: 09/30/2013 -