When a baby is not handling the stress of childbirth well, or is not receiving sufficient oxygen, then the baby is experiencing fetal distress. Fetal distress can have very serious results, including brain damage, or even death. Not only is the situation frightening and emotional for the parents, the mother is also in a dangerous situation.
Obstetricians, nurses, and other medical staff present in the delivery room possess a great deal of information regarding the process of labor and delivery. One of the most important sources of this information is the fetal monitoring strip. Depending on how far along the labor has progressed, the fetal monitoring strip can be placed either externally or internally. It monitors the heart rate of the child during delivery.
Monitoring the child’s heart rate tells the obstetrician and nurses whether the child is receiving enough oxygen. If the child is not receiving enough oxygen the result could be cerebral palsy and brain damage. Birth injuries can often be avoided if the obstetrician had reviewed the information available and recognized the signs of fetal distress.
For every 1,000 births, 42 will experience fetal distress. Common causes of fetal distress include:
- Breach position,
- Compressed umbilical cord,
- Diabetes or infectious disease in the mother,
- Failure to evaluate the pregnancy as high-risk,
- Failure to provide appropriate treatment,
- Feces has mixed with the amniotic fluid,
- Lengthy labor,
- Misuse of delivery instruments,
- Reduction of blood supply during the pregnancy or delivery,
- Should dystocia
- Umbilical cord problems, and/or
- Use of epidurals.
Once an obstetrician or nurse recognizes the signs of fetal distress, the obstetrician needs to act immediately to deliver the child. This usually involves performing a cesarean section. There may only be minutes for the obstetrician to ensure that the child is safely delivered. Regardless of how short the timeframe, the obstetrician still has a duty to act within the accepted standard of care.
When fetal distress results in birth injuries, it is important that the circumstances surrounding the birth be examined to determine whether medical malpractice occurred. Birth injuries can include:
- Bone fracture
- Brain damage
- Cerebral palsy
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
- Organ failure
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