Capillary blood gases are used to assess respiratory function in neonates. Physicians use capillary blood gas testing to measure blood pH and levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, according to Children’s Hospital Minnesota. The acid-base balance and gas levels in the blood indicate whether the infant has a sufficient oxygen supply or is at risk of hypoxia.
Birth asphyxia or hypoxia is an inadequate supply of oxygen in the infant’s body and can sometimes be a complication of labor and delivery. This is especially common in premature infants, according to Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. Oxygen deficiency in a neonate can have severe consequences, including brain injury and neurological deficits. For infants who are hypoxic and in respiratory distress, artificial ventilation or oxygen supplementation may be necessary, as stated by MedlinePlus.
Similar testing can be done during labor to assess whether the fetus is getting enough oxygen before birth, says MedlinePlus. A reduced amount of oxygen in the mother’s blood, low levels of amniotic fluid, or compression of the umbilical cord can cause oxygen deprivation during and shortly after birth, says the American Pregnancy Association. These tests can be helpful to determine cases in which an emergency cesarean section may be needed.