When an expectant mother arrives at the hospital to give birth, she is connected to electronic devices that help nurses and doctors monitor the baby’s vital signs and the mother’s contractions. The information that is produced from the fetal heart rate monitor and the other devices is what helps the medical birthing team determine if the baby is in fetal distress so they can make the right call during the labor and delivery process.
What Is Fetal Distress?
When a fetus doesn’t get enough oxygen during pregnancy or labor, the baby may be in fetal distress. This means that the baby will have an abnormal heart rate that the medical staff should be able to see on the electronic heart rate monitoring device. If a baby is in fetal distress, it means that the baby may be at risk for oxygen deprivation and birth injuries.
Some causes of fetal distress can include umbilical cord prolapse, placental abruption, an abnormal fetus position, shoulder dystocia, uterine rupture, and meconium in the amniotic fluid. Although there are many causes of fetal distress, the main concern is that fetal distress often leads to oxygen deprivation for the fetus.
Monitoring Fetal Distress
Nurses and doctors have been trained to look for signs of fetal distress. They can do this by analyzing patterns in the fetal heart rate to see if the baby is or isn’t getting enough oxygen. If the baby is in fetal distress, the team must move quickly to get the baby out of the birthing canal safely. Sometimes this means moving a woman in different birthing positions or it may mean ordering an emergency cesarean section.
Even before labor and delivery, there are things that obstetricians should be checking to ensure the mother and baby are safe. Some common health concerns that can cause fetal distress include:
- Anemia. Expectant mothers should be checked for anemia. If a mother is anemic during pregnancy, it means that her body isn’t able to help provide the right nutrients to the baby. Consequently, the baby may not be receiving adequate oxygen and may be at risk for suffering fetal distress. This is why doctors should be monitoring their patients’ levels to ensure their patients are eating iron-rich foods and taking multivitamins. If a patient is found to be anemic during pregnancy, there are treatments such as taking iron supplements or receiving a blood transfusion, but anemia has to be found and treated early during pregnancy so there isn’t any risk to the fetus.
- Gestational hypertension. When an expectant mother has high blood pressure during pregnancy, it can cause preeclampsia, which can be harmful for the mom and the baby. This is why an obstetrician needs to check an expectant mother’s blood pressure and urine levels at each prenatal checkup. If there are concerns, more tests should be ordered to determine if the fetus is receiving adequate blood flow. Various treatments including rest and medication can help; however, an emergency C-section may be needed depending how far into the pregnancy a mother-to-be is.
- Oligohydramnios (low amniotic fluid levels). If a woman has diabetes, preeclampsia, hypertension, and other health concerns, it can lead to a decrease in amniotic fluid levels. Because the amniotic fluid is essential to the development of the baby, a doctor should keep a close eye on a woman’s levels. Also, if a doctor allows an expectant mother to go over 42 weeks, low levels of amniotic fluid can occur because fluids can decrease by half once a woman reaches 42 weeks gestation, according to American Pregnancy. This can lead to a decline in placental function and fetal distress.
If a doctor failed to respond a mother’s health conditions during pregnancy or failed to respond to concerns during delivery, fetal distress could have occurred that led to unnecessary harm. Sadly, fetal distress caused from a lack of oxygen can lead to cerebral palsy, paralysis, other birth injuries, and even death.
If your son or daughter suffered any type of birth injury due to medical negligence on the part of a nurse or doctor, your family has a right to seek justice. Don’t delay speaking with an experienced medical malpractice attorney at (703) 591-0067. We would be honored to answer your questions and talk about your potential claim in a free, no-obligation consultation.