Top Signs of Fetal Distress to Never Ignore January 30, 2024.

Top Signs of Fetal Distress to Never Ignore

Pregnancy can be an exciting time for mothers-to-be. Whether it’s a first baby or a fifth, the process is always wondrous and of course, stressful. While the stress of getting the nursery done before the baby arrives might be the first thing you think of, there’s another kind of stress you need to know about.

Keep reading to learn about fetal distress, its signs, and what happens if doctors don’t act fast enough to get the baby help.

What Is Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress, which is also sometimes called "non-reassuring fetal status," is the clinical terminology for when a fetus is unwell during labor. This can occur for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are related to dropping fetal oxygen levels.

Top 3 Signs of Fetal Distress 

There are generally three primary signs that medical professionals look for to determine if a baby is in distress during labor: 

1. Changes In the Baby’s Heart Rate

If a baby’s heart rate is too high or too low during birth, this is a clear indicator that they’re in distress. Monitoring is usually done with an external ultrasound that is strapped to the mother's belly, but may be done with a clip that is placed internally on the baby’s scalp for more accuracy.

2. Meconium In the Amniotic Fluid

Meconium is a baby’s first bowel movement, which should occur outside of the mother’s body shortly after birth. Ideally, this is the baby’s first diaper. If the baby passes meconium before they are delivered, this can be a sign they are in danger.

Additionally, the presence of meconium adds new risk for both mother and baby. Mothers may develop an infection that requires antibiotic treatment, while babies may aspirate the meconium while still in the womb. This is potentially fatal and can lead to serious complications, including brain damage caused by hypoxia, or the lack of oxygen.

3. Decrease In the Baby’s Movement

According to the Cleveland Clinic, mothers should feel about 10 movements per hour every day during their third trimester. As the baby runs out of space, these may become pushes and shoves instead of kicks.

If the baby has stopped moving as much as usual and isn't responding to any attempts to wake them (like drinking a glass of cold orange juice), this may suggest they are in distress. Immediate diagnostic testing is necessary to confirm the baby's safety or to induce delivery if they aren’t. 

Causes of Fetal Distress

There are many possible causes of fetal distress during labor. Some of the most common include:

  1. Problems with the placenta, including placental abruption and placenta previa
  2. Blood pressure that is too high or too low
  3. Compression of the umbilical cord
  4. Contractions that happen too often
  5. Low amniotic fluid
  6. Fetal anemia

It can sometimes be difficult to pin down a single cause for a fetus experiencing distress. Women with the following risk factors are more likely to have babies that struggle during labor: 

  1. Obesity
  2. Preeclampsia
  3. Gestational diabetes
  4. Kidney disease
  5. Multiple pregnancy
  6. Low birth weight

What If a Doctor Doesn’t Act Fast?

If the baby stays in distress too long, severe complications can occur. This includes serious health conditions and disabilities like cerebral palsy, motor impairment, failure to thrive, mental health and learning disabilities, and hypoxic brain injuries.

Not all interventions for fetal distress are risky or complicated. Often, the mother's position can be changed or oxygen can be administered and the baby's distress signals will decrease.This makes a doctor’s failure to act quickly when the baby is showing symptoms of distress even harder to understand.

If a mother can prove that the doctor who delivered the baby knew or should have known the baby was in distress and failed to act, and that a birth injury was the result, the physician may be liable for the financial and emotional damages the family incurred. This includes future medical bills throughout the child’s life for the adequate management of the condition caused by the injury. 

When to Call a Qualified Cleveland Birth Injury Attorney

Fetal distress can turn what should be an exciting and incredible time for your family into a nightmare. When handled well, fetal distress is often nothing to worry about. But when the medical professionals attending the birth fail to act quickly as soon as symptoms of distress begin, serious injuries can result.

Contact The Mellino Law Firm today at (440) 333-3800 to discuss the details of your case and how you can obtain the compensation your family deserves after a birth injury changes your future