Apnea of prematurity is a brief stop in breathing in babies born before 35 weeks of pregnancy. It lasts 15 to 20 seconds. The brief stop may be less than 15 seconds if the baby has a slow heart rate or turns blue or pale.
This problem may be caused by an immature nervous system, weak breathing muscles, or a mix of both.
The brain controls breathing. It should sense the need to breathe and tell the body to do it. Young nervous systems may not be able to do this. This is called central apnea.
Premature babies may also have weak breathing muscles. They cannot support the airway and keep it open. This makes it hard to breathe. This is called obstructive apnea.
Apnea of prematurity. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/apnea-of-prematurity. Accessed December 15, 2020.
Apnea of prematurity. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/pediatrics/apnea_of_prematurity_22,ApneaOfPrematurity. Accessed December 15, 2020.
Apnea of prematurity. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/aop.html. Accessed December 15, 2020.
Bloch-Salisbury E, Hall MH, et al. Heritability of apnea of prematurity: a retrospective twin study. Pediatrics. 2010 Oct;126(4):e779-787.
Fechner A, Brown K, et al. Effect of single embryo transfer on the risk of preterm birth associated with in vitro fertilization. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2015 Feb;32(2):221-224.
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.