Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – Causes, Risk Factors

Carrying pregnancy to term and delivering a healthy baby is always what every expecting mother looks forward to. Losing the baby soon or several months after delivery can therefore be very devastating. Unfortunately, this is what some mothers around the world go through after delivering healthy babies.

Commonly referred to as crib death, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is just that. A healthy infant or baby is put to sleep in its crib or bed and fails to wake up only to be pronounced death at a medical facility. Occurrence of SIDS is not restricted to any particular region of the world. It is an occurrence that can affect any infant or baby in any region.


The real cause of SIDS remains unknown and a lot of research is still underway to better understand the syndrome. However, there are several factors linked to the syndrome:

Brain disorders – Infants born with brain disorders are most likely to die suddenly while asleep. Such disorders interfere with smooth control of a baby’s breathing system, making it impossible for a baby to wake up from sleep.

Premature birth – Babies born before term are always at high risk of SIDS. This is because their brains are not yet mature enough and cannot therefore control such vital processes as heart rate and breathing system.

Respiratory infections – Infants born with respiratory infections or develop the same after birth stand a high risk of SIDS. Such infections as cold impair an infant’s breathing system, which can easily lead to SIDS.
In addition to the above, an infant or baby can also die of SIDS due to suffocation when placed to sleep on stomach or on either side.

Risk Factors

Medical researchers have of late identified several factors that they link to SIDS. One of these is heredity. Researchers have been able to link SIDS to families with a history of SIDS and consider babies born in such families as babies at high risk of dying before they attain one year of age.

For unknown reasons, the number of boy babies who have been found to die of SIDS is higher than that of girl babies. This has made researchers believe that baby boys are at higher risk of SIDS that girls. It has also been established that infants or babies exposed to an environment with tobacco smoke are at high risk of dying of SIDS.

Expecting mothers who indulge in unhealthy lifestyle and habits have also been identified to be a risk to their unborn babies. In particular, young expecting mothers under 20 years, expecting mothers who smoke, use drugs or take alcohol are most likely to have their babies die of SIDS.

SIDS often occurs during the first three months of a baby’s life. This is the time that a baby requires a lot of care and support and it is the duty and responsibility of any mother to prevent SIDS at all costs. The fact that it may occur makes it very necessary for any mother who experiences it to seek help, which can be from a support group or a medical professional in order to cope.

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