Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)

RDS is found in infants born prematurely. It occurs in 60 percent of babies born before the 28th week of pregnancy. It may result in other problems associated with premature infants such as sepsis or bleeding into the brain.

What is respiratory distress syndrome?

RDS is a life threatening lung disorder that commonly affects premature newborns. Newborns with RDS were born too prematurely for lungs to completely develop and their lungs therefore cannot inflate.


RDS is the result of insufficient levels of surfactant, a foamy fluid produced body the body between the 34th and 37th weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies have often not produced enough surfactant to help inflate their lungs.


Symptoms begin occurring shortly after birth and include rapid breathing, nasal flaring, grunting noise with each breath, and blue around lips and nail beds, which indicates a lack of oxygen. Symptoms usually appear shortly after birth and become more severe over time.


RDS may be prevented before a child’s birth by giving women in danger of giving birth to a premature baby certain hormones. Newborns with RDS may be treated by supportive therapy such as intravenous fluids, by the use of mechanical respirators to prevent the alveoli from collapsing, by the administration of surfactant and for severe cases, by the use of partial liquid ventilation, which places oxygenated liquid in the lungs.