Firm Logo

Signs and Possible Causes of Fetal Distress

August 07, 2021

Fetal distress refers to an emergency situation that occurs during pregnancy or during delivery in which a baby suffers from asphyxia or oxygen deprivation. Fetal distress, if not immediately treated, can lead to significant or even fatal injuries for a baby. If your child suffered from fetal distress and was injured as a result, you should learn more about the condition and its possible causes. A medical malpractice attorney can also help you and your family determine whether you may have a claim to compensation. 

Signs of Fetal Distress

Some of the most common signs of fetal distress include:

  • Increases or decreases in a baby’s heart rate, or wild variations in heart rate.
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Abnormally low or high amniotic fluid levels, which can lead to oxygen deprivation for a baby
  • Meconium (the baby’s fecal matter) in the amniotic fluid, as fecal matter is typically stored in the intestines until delivery
  • Excessive vaginal bleeding, which may signal a placental abruption

What Causes Fetal Distress?

Causes or triggers of fetal distress may include:

  • Abnormal fetal presentation (i.e., not a “head first” approach through the birth canal.
  • Improper use of delivery tools such as a vacuum extractor or forceps
  • Prolonged or arrested labor
  • Placental abruption, where the placenta prematurely tears away from the walls of the uterus
  • Preeclampsia, or abnormally high blood pressure in the mother
  • Issues with the umbilical cord, such as the cord getting crushed or prolapsed, tied in a knot, or wrapped around the baby’s chest, neck, or head
  • Uterine rupture, a tear in the uterus due to pressure from a fetus. Most commonly occurs in mothers who have had prior C-sections or uterine/abdominal surgery

Responding to Fetal Distress

Medical teams must closely monitor the condition of the mother and baby throughout pregnancy and during delivery. During the pregnancy, treatment of signs or risk factors of fetal distress may include administering oxygen, fluids, or medication to bolster oxygen flow to the baby or to treat a medical condition in the mother that may lead to fetal distress, such as preeclampsia. 

In many cases, especially during delivery, the response to signs of fetal distress usually involves performing an emergency cesarean section to deliver the baby. During delivery, a C-section should ideally be performed within 10 to 15 minutes of the first signs of fetal distress. 

Medical professionals treating mother and baby should be alert for and take seriously any signs or risk factors of fetal distress. Only prompt intervention can prevent a baby from suffering permanent disability or fatal injuries. In particular, healthcare providers should be especially aware of fetal distress in high-risk pregnancies. Where providers fail to properly monitor maternal and fetal health or to respond to signs of fetal distress and the baby suffers harm as a result, that may constitute medical malpractice that can entitle a family to recover compensation for medical treatment for baby and mother, specialized care for the baby’s injury or disability, and pain and suffering or lost quality of life because of a baby’s injury. 

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Fetal Distress Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh fetal distress attorneys at Berger & Lagnese, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Butler, Cranberry Township, Erie, and Greensburg. Call us today at (412) 471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant St., #720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

We Have Successfully Handled Cases Like Yours