Premature infants, particularly those born more than seven weeks early (before 32 weeks of pregnancy) are more likely to have periods of bradycardia or low heart rate. This is usually due to the immaturity of their lungs and the inability to maintain the oxygen levels in their blood. When this happens, one response the baby's heart makes is to slow down. However, as babies mature, their natural heart rates tend to get slower anyway.
Compared to the average newborn's heart rate of 140 beats a minute, an infant is considered to have bradycardia when:
- The heart rate is below 100 beats a minute in a premature infant;
- The heart rate is below 80 beats a minute in an infant born to term; or
- The heart rate is below 60 beats a minute in an infant 3 months or older.
What is normal?
The drop in heart rate is considered normal if the heart rate returns to normal by itself within five to 10 seconds.
The treatments for bradycardia vary depending on cause. It's important to discuss treatment options with your child's physician or call the Apnea Center at 404-315-2801 for more information.