Signs of Fetal Distress: What To Look For

No one wants to think of their baby in distress. However, it is imperative to be well versed in the possible problems that can arise during labor, both for your own health and to make sure your child’s health is safeguarded. If something does happen, being well-informed can be the difference between receiving the compensation you may be owed, and receiving nothing.

Signs and Symptoms of Fetal Distress

Fetal distress specifically refers to oxygen deprivation, most often during labor, though it can occur toward the end of pregnancy at well. The occurrence rate is hard to pin down. Estimates range from 1 in 25 to 1 in 100; whatever the rate is, however, it is common enough to be a concern in most deliveries.

Symptoms are somewhat difficult to notice without a fetal heart monitor – the most common symptom of fetal distress is a drastically reduced heart rate and rate of movement in utero. If you are near your due date or overdue, another sign is your baby passing meconium (essentially the first bowel movement) while still in utero. However, it is possible to be pro-active if you notice any potential risk factors in yourself during the pregnancy. Significant risk factors that increase the possibility of fetal distress are:

  • Pre-eclampsia, a condition which raises the maternal blood pressure significantly;
  • Hydramnios, which is having too much amniotic fluid;
  • Having a multiple birth; and
  • Being over age 35.

If your baby does become distressed before or during labor, the most common remedy by far is immediate delivery, usually via cesarean section. However, if that is not immediately viable, it is suggested that you lie on your left side to reduce pressure on major veins that may feed the placenta.

Oxygen deprivation can result in difficulties for your child, and it is important that your medical professional be ready to deal with any or all of them. If they have delayed too long, even by a second, it can change your child’s lifelong prognosis.

Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM)

One of the most reliable and common methods of verifying fetal health is electronic fetal monitoring (EFM). Reading a fetal monitor strip is quite complex and can usually only be done by medical professionals; failure to do so or failure to do so correctly can be the basis for a medical malpractice case.

EFM can be done in two methods, internal and external. External is done with a hand-held Doppler ultrasound, while internal is done with an electrode directly on the head of the fetus. There are several opportunities for medical mistake here, including using excessive force in placing the electrode. EFM is usually a tool used in court to point to a clean bill of fetal health before an alleged act of negligence, but it can also cause problems in itself.

Get An Attorney On Your Side

Fetal distress can be life-changing for you and your child. If it has happened to you or someone in your family, an attorney can help you receive the compensation you are owed. The experienced attorneys at Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC are well versed in medical malpractice and negligence law, and we will fight for you. Contact our Louisville office for an initial consultation today.

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