Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)

Complications of BPD

If your newborn has been treated with oxygen or been on a ventilator and has BPD they may have difficulty breathing and other complications later.

Your hospital doctor will probably have explained more about what symptoms to look out for. Our information on signs of breathing problems suggests when to visit your doctor and when to call 999.

Children with BPD are at risk of developing breathing difficulties when they get a virus infection, even those infections that would cause a mild cold in most babies. It is important to be aware of symptoms that mean you should get immediate help.

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If your baby has BPD, they may find it harder to fight off infections of the airway like pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus. It’s important to try and prevent your baby getting infections if you can.

Virus chest infections often last longer than in other infants and they can set back the progress of babies with BPD. For example they may need to go back onto oxygen or increase the amount of oxygen they receive if they are still on oxygen treatment.

Difficulty feeding and reflux

Babies with severe BPD may have difficulty feeding and reflux caused by the lungs pushing onto the stomach.  

Reflux is also called possetting and it’s when your baby spits up whatever they’ve just swallowed. (It’s different to vomiting, where your baby’s muscles contract forcefully.)

It’s important that babies with BPD get adequate nourishment. If your baby has reflux frequently and appears to bring up lots of milk, do tell your doctor.

Talk to your doctor if your child is coughing, choking or being sick after feeding. You may also notice your child is not gaining weight as quickly as they should.

Fluid in the lungs

Babies with BPD are more at risk of pulling excess fluid from their blood cells into the lungs as they work hard to breathe.

Pulmonary hypertension

If the lungs don’t have enough oxygen, the arteries that carry blood to the lungs get narrower. The heart has to work harder to pump blood. This can cause pulmonary hypertension. It can be prevented and treated by making sure your baby has enough oxygen in their blood. Some babies may also need medication.

High blood pressure

Your baby’s body may be under a lot of stress. This can cause high blood pressure. Babies with BPD should have their blood pressure checked regularly.

If you have concerns or need advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.