Health experts have warned that unborn babies whose bodies allow an unhealthy drop in blood pH levels are more likely to suffer cerebral palsy, brain damage or death.
A University of Birmingham research team discovered babies with a low level of pH in umbilical cord blood were 17 times more likely to die, 14 times more likely to be affected by brain damage and more than twice as likely to suffer from cerebral palsy.
Blood with a pH reading of 7.4 will maintain a healthy balance but if the blood becomes too acidic - lowering the pH level - babies can suffer respiratory problems due to a lack of oxygen, the online report in the British Medical Journal claimed.
Problems arising from a lack of oxygen can include hypoxia, which is the most common cause of brain damage among premature or small babies.
The researchers - who analysed 51 studies with more than 480,000 infant participants - said: "Low arterial cord pH showed strong, consistent and temporal associations with clinically important neonatal outcomes."
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