Failure to Monitor Signs of Fetal Distress

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Failure to monitor signs of fetal distress can have serious implications during childbirth. It refers to the oversight or inadequate tracking of fetal heart rate and other vital signs during labor and delivery, which might indicate that the fetus is not coping well with the birthing process. This could be due to various factors, such as insufficient oxygen supply or other complications.

This issue can lead to delayed medical interventions such as a necessary cesarean section or other urgent procedures to ensure the health of the baby. In severe cases, this failure can result in birth injuries, neurological damage, or even fetal death. Healthcare providers need to use appropriate monitoring equipment and respond adequately to any signs of distress to minimize risks to both the mother and the fetus.

Medical Guidelines

Medical guidelines for managing labor and delivery emphasize the importance of continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the fetus. EFM tracks the fetal heart rate (FHR) alongside the mother’s uterine contractions, providing real-time data that can alert healthcare providers to potential problems. Here’s a deeper look into how EFM is used and the typical interventions recommended based on the patterns observed:

How EFM Works

EFM involves using sensors placed on the mother’s abdomen to detect the FHR and another sensor to measure the frequency and intensity of uterine contractions. The FHR is typically displayed as a graph, and any deviations from the normal range (usually 110 to 160 beats per minute) might indicate distress. Patterns such as tachycardia (too fast), bradycardia (too slow), or variable and late decelerations can indicate different types of stress or compromise.

Internal Monitoring

Internal fetal monitoring is more invasive than external monitoring but provides more accurate and continuous data on the fetal heart rate and uterine contractions. It’s usually performed when external monitoring isn’t providing enough information or when precise monitoring is necessary due to complications during labor.

  • Fetal Scalp Electrode (FSE): A small electrode is attached directly to the fetus’s scalp to measure the electrical conduction of the fetal heart. This method provides a more accurate and consistent reading of the fetal heart rate than external monitoring.
  • Intrauterine Pressure Catheter (IUPC): This device measures uterine pressure during contractions. It provides precise measurements of the strength and timing of contractions, which can be crucial for assessing labor progress and managing delivery.

Other Indicators Assessed

In addition to monitoring the FHR, healthcare providers also observe:

  • Amniotic fluid clarity: Clear fluid is normal, while meconium-stained (greenish) fluid can indicate that the fetus has experienced stress.
  • Fetal movement and responsiveness: Decreased movement can signify fetal distress.

Recommended Interventions

The type and severity of fetal distress guide the interventions. These include:

  • Adjusting the mother’s position: Moving the mother to her side or adjusting her from a back to a semi-seated position can help improve placental blood flow, enhancing oxygen availability to the fetus.
  • Using medications: Tocolytics may be administered to relax the uterus and reduce the frequency and strength of contractions. Alternatively, if the labor needs to be accelerated due to distress, oxytocin might be used under careful monitoring.
  • Performing an emergency cesarean section: If non-invasive interventions do not resolve the distress, or if the distress escalates rapidly, an emergency cesarean section may be performed to deliver the baby quickly and safely.

Continuous Assessment

Throughout labor, the response to these interventions is continuously assessed through ongoing monitoring. Adjustments are made as necessary, with the goal of maintaining fetal health without compromising the mother’s well-being.

Contact Gray and White Today

If you think that your healthcare team failed to monitor signs of fetal distress in your baby, get in touch with us today. We can evaluate the specifics of your case, including medical records and potential expert opinions, to determine if there is a viable claim. Call (502) 210-8942 or fill out our online form to request a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys