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Warning Signs of Fetal Distress

by The Beasley Firm  |  May 12, 2023  |  ,

What You Need to Know About Fetal Distress

When you are pregnant, the health and safety of your baby is often your top priority. In some cases, however, your infant may be in distress. Doctors, midwives, and other healthcare professionals usually monitor you throughout your pregnancy for signs of fetal distress. A failure to monitor or missed diagnosis can result in severe complications or birth trauma.

At The Beasley Firm, LLC, we represent individuals who have sustained harm due to undetected or missed signs of fetal distress. Our firm has over sixty years of experience working with families on even the most complex birth injury cases. Contact our office today at (215) 866-2424 to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation. 

What Is Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress is the term used to describe a fetus that does not have healthy vitals. Most commonly, fetal distress is used when there are signs that the fetus is not receiving enough oxygen. It is generally referred to by health care providers as “non-reassuring fetal status” (NRFS).

Throughout your pregnancy, your doctor, nurse, or midwife will monitor your baby to see that they are developing normally. They will listen to ensure that the fetus’s heart rate is not too high or too low. They will also ensure that the baby is moving well and that your levels of amniotic fluid remain sufficient. 

What Are the Signs of Fetal Distress?

Signs of fetal distress usually occur late in pregnancy or during labor and delivery but may be detected at any time. It is important to know that you are often your child’s best advocate. If you feel that something is not right, you should always consult with your doctor to ensure that there are no signs of distress.

Signs of fetal distress may include:

  • An abnormal heart rate. A heart rate that is too high or too low may indicate that the fetus is in some kind of distress. A doctor or technician will often monitor this through an electronic fetal heart rate monitor or Doppler device to ensure that your infant’s heartbeat is within normal range.
  • Decreased movement of the fetus. Another common sign of fetal distress is if the baby moves less than normal for a long period of time. A fetus is usually very active; therefore, expectant parents should report any decrease in the baby’s movement to a healthcare provider immediately. 
  • Vaginal bleeding. Any amount of bleeding during pregnancy may be discomforting, but a small amount is usually normal. A moderate to large amount of bleeding, however, can be an indication of a more serious problem, including placental abruption.
  • Excessive weight gain. Most women experience weight gain throughout pregnancy. Gaining too much weight, on the other hand, may cause health issues that could lead to fetal distress.
  • Cramping. Severe camping coupled with back pain may be a sign of a serious problem with the fetus. It is imperative to discuss any abnormal symptoms, including extreme pain, with your doctor.
  • Low amniotic fluid. A final indication of fetal distress may be if there is insufficient amniotic fluid. A mother’s amniotic fluid levels should be monitored throughout the pregnancy. Too low of fluid can cause the infant to be deprived of oxygen.

Comprehensive prenatal care is often critical in ensuring that you have a healthy delivery. If your doctor or healthcare provider failed to provide you with a reasonable standard of care throughout your pregnancy, you might be able to file a claim based on medical malpractice.

What Are Signs of Fetal Distress in the Third Trimester?

While fetal distress can be detected throughout the pregnancy, it is often seen in the third trimester. To ensure the health of your baby, prenatal monitoring should become more frequent as you get closer to your due date.

Signs of fetal distress in the third trimester:

  • Cramping or preterm contractions
  • Bleeding
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Decreased fetal movement (usually measured in kick counts)
  • Severe abdominal pain

Any of these symptoms should be immediately reported to your doctor or midwife. Several tests can be conducted to ensure that your baby is developing normally. 

What Are Common Causes of Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress can be caused by several factors. The primary reason, however, is that the fetus is deprived of oxygen. Monitoring the health of the fetus throughout pregnancy and during labor and delivery can help ensure that any signs of fetal distress are immediately addressed.

Common causes of fetal distress:

  • Low amniotic fluid
  • Preeclampsia
  • Placental abruption
  • Tangled umbilical cord
  • Fetal anemia
  • Abnormal positioning
  • Forceps-assisted delivery or vacuum extraction
  • Meconium 
  • Uterine rupture
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH)

These are only a few of the many things that may cause an infant to be in distress. A prompt diagnosis and treatment of what is causing the fetal distress often proves vital in preventing serious complications.

Can Fetal Distress Be Treated?

Fetal distress can be treated by an obstetrician or another healthcare provider. To alleviate the stress on your fetus, you may be asked to change position during labor. Changing position can help increase blood flow and supply oxygen to your child. Furthermore, a doctor may give you an amnioinfusion if your fluid is low or the umbilical cord has become compressed.

In some cases, a doctor may order a cesarean section (c-section) in order to deliver your baby as quickly as possible. Failing to identify and treat the cause of the fetal distress can lead to a birth injury such as cerebral palsy or even death. If your infant showed warning signs of fetal distress that were not taken seriously, you might be entitled to compensation.

Contact Our Office to Learn More

If your child had signs of fetal distress during your pregnancy or labor and delivery, you need to speak to an attorney. Contact our office today at (215) 866-2424 to schedule a free case consultation. There are no fees unless we win. 

Our firm has secured over $2 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. Get the compassionate, dedicated representation you deserve. Call now to get started.

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