Fetal distress is a term used to describe a situation where an unborn baby may be experiencing oxygen deprivation or another form of stress. This can happen during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. Here’s a closer look at how fetal distress is diagnosed and the physiological reasons behind it:

Criteria for Diagnosis

Doctors should use a few methods to monitor fetal well-being during pregnancy and labor, including:

    • Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring: Electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) tracks the baby’s heart rate throughout labor. Abnormal heart rate patterns, such as decelerations or prolonged periods of a high heart rate, can indicate fetal distress.
    • Biophysical Profile (BPP): This combines ultrasound with non-stress testing (NST) to assess fetal breathing, movement, muscle tone, amniotic fluid level, and fetal heart rate reactivity. An abnormal BPP score may suggest fetal distress.
    • Amniocentesis: In some cases, a sample of amniotic fluid may be analyzed to check for signs of infection or other issues that could be causing fetal distress.

Physiological Reasons for Fetal Distress

Several physiological factors can lead to fetal distress, including:

    • Problems with the Placenta: Issues with the placenta, like when the placenta separates from the uterine wall, can increase the risk of premature birth or death. Placental issues are also dangerous for the mother.
    • Umbilical Cord Complications: A prolapsed cord (cord protruding before the baby) or a cord knot can cut off oxygen supply to the baby.
    • Maternal Health Conditions: High blood pressure, infections, or other maternal health problems can reduce uterine blood flow and affect the baby’s oxygen supply.
    • Complications During Delivery: Difficult labor, prolonged labor, delaying a necessary C-section, or the use of certain medications or instruments during delivery can also cause fetal distress.

Long-Term Care and Rehabilitation

Birth injuries caused by fetal distress can lead to many long-term challenges for children. The specific needs will depend on the severity and type of injury. Here’s an overview of potential rehabilitation services that can help:

  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help improve a child’s muscle strength, coordination, balance, and gross motor skills. This can be crucial for children with cerebral palsy, muscle weakness, or other mobility limitations.
  • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy focuses on helping children develop the skills for daily living activities, such as dressing, bathing, eating, and self-care.
  • Speech Therapy: Speech therapy can address communication challenges caused by brain injuries. It may involve helping a child develop their speech and language skills, improve swallowing difficulties, or learn alternative communication methods.

Early intervention and ongoing rehabilitation services can significantly improve a child’s long-term outcomes and help them reach their full potential. Also, seeking legal help to get your child’s compensation for medical care and ongoing therapy is critical.

Legal Rights and Advocacy

If you suspect that your child’s birth injury may have been caused by fetal distress due to medical negligence, it’s important to understand your legal rights. Here’s why seeking legal counsel can be beneficial:

  • Documenting Medical Negligence: Building a strong case requires evidence of medical negligence. An experienced lawyer can help you gather and analyze medical records to identify any deviations from the standard of care that may have contributed to your child’s injury.
  • Importance of Medical Records: Medical records are critical evidence in birth injury cases. A lawyer can ensure all relevant medical documentation is obtained and used to support your claim.
  • The Benefit of Calling an Experienced Lawyer: Medical malpractice cases are complex, and when malpractice involves the injury of an infant, the emotions involved are unthinkable. An attorney experienced in birth injury law can guide you through the legal process, negotiate with insurance companies, and fight for the compensation your child needs for ongoing medical care, therapy, and future needs.

Proven Record in Fetal Distress Birth Injury Cases

At Beam Legal Team, our attorneys have handled many cases involving medical professionals who failed in some capacity to identify and/or appropriately respond to fetal distress during labor and delivery.

Many of our case results show that these failures often result in serious long-term side effects:

  • We secured a $15 million settlement in a case where the hospital failed to recognize fetal distress signs during a two-day Pitocin induction of a young mother. As a result, they didn’t perform a C-section and overdosed Pitocin to the point that it caused excessive contractions. The child, in this case, suffered severe brain damage and is unable to talk, walk, or care for herself.
  • In a case that was settled for $11 million, attending nurses and doctors confused the mother’s heart rate with the baby’s when monitoring a fetal heart rate monitor. This led to their failure to recognize significant fetal distress and the baby suffering brain damage, cerebral palsy, and the need for lifetime 24/7 nursing care.
  • Our firm secured a $6.875 million settlement in a Michigan birth injury case where a child suffered brain damage after medical staff failed to detect fetal distress and failed to perform an emergency C-section hours before. The lack of oxygen resulted in a diagnosis of spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, the most severe case of CP, seizure complications, microcephaly, and developmental delays.

As our cases and many others like it make clear, fetal distress can cause long-term health consequences, especially when medical professionals are negligent in identifying and responding to complications. Often, these errors prove devastating to children and their families and commonly result in life-altering challenges, emotional injuries, and the need for lifelong care and specialized accommodations.

Getting Legal Help After Fetal Distress During Birth

If you believe medical staff failed to appropriately detect or respond to fetal distress during birth, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact us for a FREE consultation to determine if you may have grounds for a lawsuit and how our award-winning legal team can protect your rights.

Originally published December 11, 2017.

Categories: Birth Injury,