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The Failure to Recognize Fetal Distress

On Behalf of | May 22, 2019 | Birth Trauma

Doctors who fail to detect the signs of fetal distress in Indiana may be liable when birth injuries result. Signs of fetal distress may include heart rate changes, meconium in the amniotic fluid, reduced movement, abnormal fluid levels, and maternal symptoms. These signs indicate that the fetus is deprived of oxygen. If the medical staff does not act quickly, the baby may suffer permanent birth injuries as a result of the lack of oxygen to the brain. Doctors and hospitals that fail to recognize that a fetus is experiencing distress may be liable to pay damages.

What Causes Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress may be caused by a number of different factors, including the following:

  • Placental abruption
  • Compression of the umbilical cord
  • An illness of the mother
  • The mother’s position placing pressure on major blood vessels
  • Infection of the fetus
  • Meconium staining

Regardless of the cause, it is important for expectant mothers to seek immediate medical attention if they suspect their babies might be under distress. In many cases, fetal distress happens during labor and delivery, but it can occur during the third trimester. Often, doctors must deliver the baby by performing an emergency c-section to stop fetal distress and to prevent permanent injury.

Symptoms of Fetal Distress

Doctors may tell their patients to count the kicks of their fetuses. The fetuses should kick at least 10 times in a two-hour period. Expectant mothers can keep a count of the kicks and if they notice that the fetal movements have dropped, they should see their doctors immediately.

When expectant mothers are in labor, the hospital maternity ward will hook them up to a variety of monitors. The monitors are meant to help to detect the infant’s heartbeat, the amniotic fluid level, and several other things. This can help the hospital staff to detect more subtle signs of fetal distress. The hospital staff should watch for abnormally fast or slow heart rates, sudden drops in heart rates, and slowly returns to the baseline rate following contractions. Doctors may also conduct non-stress tests to see how the fetuses’ heart rates change when they move.

When doctors and other medical staff members fail to detect that a fetus is experiencing fetal distress, the baby may suffer lifelong birth injuries. Doctors, nurses, and hospitals may be liable to pay compensation to cover the costs of care and other losses.