How does a baby take his first breath after being born?

Linda S. Katz, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Pregnancy and delivery aren't always in our control. In this video, Linda Katz, MD, an OB/GYN at West Hills Hospital, describes ways to still enhance your chances of having a safe vaginal birth.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
In the midst of everything that's going on during labor and delivery, you may not notice one of the most beautiful parts about the delivery process - your baby's transition from living underwater to living in air. Nine months of work culminates in the cutting of the cord.Before that breath can happen, blood has to move from the heart to the lungs, which up until this point were like rigid sponges, where nothing could get through. A chemical called surfactant (like soap film) prevents the lungs from collapsing so the air sacs can fill with air.

The first breath - which typically happens within 40 seconds of the cord being cut - sometimes needs to be prompted through a little rubbing or jostling of the baby (not the stereotypical spanking).

In premature infants, steroids can be given before (or even after) birth to stimulate surfactant secretion to help keep their lungs open after they are born - a process known as accelerating the maturity of the lungs.
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

More About this Book

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time,...