You may have heard scary words being used by your nurses or doctors during labor or delivery. Terms such as fetal distress, hypoxia, asphyxia, non-reassuring fetal status, fetal tachycardia, bradycardia, repetitive variable decelerations, low biophysical profile, and late decelerations could have meant that your baby was in trouble. Did the medical team take appropriate actions? We explain the connection between fetal distress and birth injury here.
Signs of Fetal Distress
Fetal monitoring can lead to a prompt diagnosis of fetal distress so that proper medical treatment can be provided to minimize any risk to your child. However, fetal monitoring only works if medical staff recognize the signs and symptoms of fetal distress. These signs and symptoms include:
- Changes in the baby’s heart rate. There are four changes in heart rate that may signal that a baby is in distress. Specifically, a baby may be in trouble if the baby’s heart rate is abnormally fast, abnormally slow, if there is a sudden or abrupt decrease in the heart rate, or if heart rate takes an abnormally long time to return to its baseline after a contraction.
- Changes in the baby’s movement. A decrease in fetal movement may be a sign that the baby is in trouble.
- Abnormal levels of amniotic fluid. If the amniotic fluid index is too high (polyhydramnios) or too low (oligohydramnios), the baby may be deprived of oxygen.
- Vaginal bleeding or cramping. These signs in the mother can be indicative of problems with the placenta.
- High blood pressure. If the mother’s high blood pressure develops into preeclampsia, the baby may not receive enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients.
While these are signs of possible fetal distress, they do not always indicate that fetal distress is occurring. They should indicate, however, the need for further testing so that doctors can determine if the baby is in trouble.
Once nurses and doctors recognize that a baby is in fetal distress, there are medical interventions that can be provided. Depending on the unique circumstances and risks, doctors may decide to do an:
- Intrauterine resuscitation. There are different ways to do this which may include changing the mother’s position during labor, hydrating the mother, giving the mother oxygen, providing fluid right into the amniotic cavity to relieve compression on the umbilical cord, or providing medication to slow down pre-term labor.
- Emergency cesarean section. Sometimes the only way to effectively treat a baby in distress is to deliver the baby and to provide medical treatment outside of the womb.
Whatever medical interventions are called for must be done promptly before serious injuries occur.
Birth Injuries Can Result From Fetal Distress
If fetal distress is not diagnosed or appropriate actions are not taken, a birth injury may result. These potential birth injuries include:
- Brain damage. If your baby suffers from a lack of oxygen during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, brain damage may occur. The effects of brain damage will depend on how long your baby was deprived of oxygen and what part of the brain was impacted. Your child may suffer from developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, and seizures, for example.
- Cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy can occur when a baby is deprived of oxygen during labor or delivery. A person who has cerebral palsy cannot control parts of the body. The symptoms of cerebral palsy may not be visible at birth, but as your baby grows you may notice that he or she fails to meet developmental milestones, has muscle weakness, has seizures, has learning difficulties, or has other physical impairments. Currently, there is no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are treatments for the symptoms of this condition.
- Death. A baby who is deprived of oxygen for too long may be stillborn.
Sometimes these birth injuries could have been avoided by doctors and nurses who used reasonable care during labor and delivery.
Protect Your Baby’s Future After a Birth Injury
Your child has been hurt by the failure of a doctor or nurse to monitor your child for fetal distress and to take appropriate actions to diagnose and treat fetal distress. Now, you are facing a future without your child or with a child who was forever changed by the medical professional's negligence.
It is up to you, as the parent, to hold the right people accountable for their negligence, but you don’t have to do it alone. Our experienced birth injury team includes attorneys and a staff nurse who will evaluate what happened and fight hard to get your child all of the damages your child deserves. To learn more, please contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can be reached through this website or by phone at any time.