Fetal Distress Emergency C Section

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Infants face serious risks during the birthing process, and it’s the duty of doctors and the care team to recognize and promptly address warning signs of fetal distress. When a baby suffers an interruption to the flow of oxygen from the mother through the umbilical cord and placenta, the result can be birth injuries ranging from mild to severe, or even fatal. If a doctor or medical provider fails to recognize signs of fetal distress or fails to promptly perform an emergency C-section after signs of fetal distress, it’s negligence and medical malpractice.

When a family’s most vulnerable new member becomes the victim of medical malpractice due to a delayed C-Section, the impacts are life-altering for the baby and the entire family. Contact the Louisville personal injury lawyer to understand your legal rights and options to secure compensation.

Signs of Fetal Distress

When a fetus experiences a disruption in oxygen flow—hypoxia—it’s a medical emergency. Medical staff use external and internal monitors to track an infant’s health status throughout the mother’s labor and delivery process. When a fetus doesn’t receive enough oxygen, the following signs should alert medical providers to an emergency situation requiring a C-Section:

  • A slow or abnormal fetal heart rate
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • The presence of meconium in the amniotic fluid
  • Maternal cramping and/or bleeding
  • Abnormal maternal weight gain
  • Low amniotic fluid

When medical providers observe signs of fetal distress, now sometimes known as non-reassuring fetal status (NRFS), they aim for a prompt delivery through an emergency C-Section. The goal is to accomplish the delivery or C-Section within 30 minutes of the initial presentation of fetal distress signs.

Causes of Fetal Distress During Labor and Childbirth

Most cases of fetal distress arise from complications during late-term pregnancy, labor, or delivery. Common causes of fetal distress include the following:

  • Umbilical cord compression
  • Maternal low blood pressure
  • Preeclampsia
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Placental previa
  • Low amniotic fluid
  • Fetal growth restriction

During the labor and delivery process, healthcare providers use electronic fetal heart rate monitors strapped around the laboring mother’s abdomen or intermittent monitoring through a Doppler to ensure the baby isn’t experiencing fetal distress. If the caregivers detect signs of fetal distress they have a duty to alert the OBGYN immediately to the baby’s change of status. Then, clinicians aim for a swift delivery through a C-section within 30 minutes of the first signs of fetal distress. Depending on the stage of labor, the doctor may try a vacuum or forceps extraction instead of a C-section. During preparation for an emergency C-section, the care team may change the mother’s position to increase oxygen flow, give the mother increased oxygen through a mask, increase fluids, and give medication to slow or halt contractions. In some cases, they may add fluid to the amniotic sac through amnioinfusion to relieve cord compression. If these measures do not return the fetus to stability, an emergency C-section should proceed as swiftly as possible.

What If a Medical Provider Fails to Promptly Deliver an Infant in Distress Through an Emergency C-Section?

When a care team fails to properly monitor for fetal distress during childbirth, fails to alert the physician to a change in status, or a medical provider fails to react promptly with an emergency delivery or C-section, it’s an act of negligence that may result in harm to the baby, including birth defects like brain injury, or cerebral palsy. Fetal death is also a complication of hypoxia or fetal distress.

Call a Birth Injury Attorney If Your Child was Harmed due to a Provider’s Negligence

Fetal distress sometimes happens quickly. A woman’s medical care team has a duty to uphold the medical community’s approved standard of care. If they breach this duty of care through an act of negligence and the result is injury to an infant or mother, they deserve justice and compensation. A Louisville birth injury attorney can help make a compelling case for compensation to families dealing with the aftermath of birth injuries resulting from a doctor’s negligence.