What complications are associated with BPD?

If your baby with BPD has been treated with oxygen or on a ventilator, they may have difficulty breathing and other complications later. On this page, we explain some of the complications of BPD.

On this page:

Complications of BPD

If your baby has bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), they may develop complications – both as a baby (short-term), and as they grow older (long-term).


If your baby has BPD, they may take longer to recover from respiratory infections. It’s important to try and prevent your baby from getting infections if you can.

Viral chest infections often last longer in babies with BPD than in other infants. They can set back the progress of babies with BPD. For example, your child may need to go back onto oxygen or increase the amount of oxygen they get.

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

In an emergency

Call 999 now if your child has any of these breathing-related symptoms:

  • severe breathing difficulties
  • grunting with the effort of trying to breathe
  • the muscles under their ribs are sucking in with each breath
  • fast breathing
  • your child won’t wake up, or won’t stay awake
  • breathing stops for more than 20 seconds at a time
  • regular shorter pauses in their breathing while they are awake
  • very pale or blue skin or the inside of their lips and tongue are blue
  • fitting, if they have never had a fit before.

For more information, see our pages on when to visit your doctor and when to call 999.

Difficulty feeding and reflux

Babies with severe BPD may have difficulty feeding and reflux.

It’s important that babies with BPD get adequate nourishment. If your baby has reflux a lot and appears to bring up lots of milk, tell your doctor. Your baby may be unsettled after feeds or not want to feed as one of the symptoms of reflux.

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

Pulmonary hypertension

If the lungs don’t have enough oxygen, the arteries that carry blood to the lungs can easily 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.

Long-term effects

BPD can lead to problems with lung health in later life. This often depends on how severe it is and whether your baby develops any complications. Some children will develop symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and getting tired and breathless when they exercise.

In general, babies and children with BPD tend to get better as they grow older. This is because most lung growth takes place after birth and throughout childhood. However, all children are different. How fast they get better, and how much their symptoms improve, will vary from child to child. So will the amount and type of care your child will need.

For some babies, evidence suggests they may have long-term complications following BPD. This includes an increased risk of cerebral palsy and delays in development. If you are worried about your child's development or their milestones it’s important you raise this with your health visitor or GP.

Does BPD go away?

Most babies with BPD stop needing extra oxygen as they get older. As your child's lungs improve and mature and they grow new air sacs, they will have fewer problems with their breathing. Most children will outgrow their problems by the time they are 2-3 years old and may not need further treatment. But in more severe cases, this may take longer.

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