Fetal distress is recognized as an abnormality of the child’s heart rate, before, during and after birth. Hearing that your child is having a problem with their heart can transform typical labor and delivery into a stressful one and cause for concern. You are likely to have many questions once fetal distress has been detected in your unborn child. One of those questions will be to wonder whether fetal distress can occur more than once throughout a pregnancy.
As your unborn baby is monitored during labor, doctors might notice three different kinds of acute fetal distress, each occurring at a different time.
- Antepartum hypoxia is when your baby’s heart rate does not respond to stimulation
- Intrapartum asphyxia is when your baby’s heart rate rises when you have a contraction
- A sudden negative reaction that causes your baby’s heart rate to drop quickly and stay low until their birth
Fetal monitoring is an important part of the process of labor and delivery. Your physician can help you understand how fetal distress can occur more than once throughout pregnancy, and how each instance of fetal distress might affect your unborn son or daughter.
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Monitoring Your Baby’s Heart Rate During Labor and Delivery
Shortly after your admission to the hospital, your doctor or another health care practitioner will listen to your unborn child’s heartbeat. This monitoring of your baby’s fetal heart rate will continue periodically using a specialized type of stethoscope called a fetoscope, using a handheld Doppler ultrasound device, or via continual use of electronic fetal heart monitoring.
Your baby’s heart is monitored to help medical practitioners determine if your baby’s heart rate is normal or if he might be in distress. Some abnormal changes in the heart rate during contractions might indicate that your baby is not receiving a sufficient amount of oxygen. Fetal monitoring can be conducted in one of the following ways:
- External monitoring uses an ultrasound device to send and receive ultrasound waves. It will be attached to your abdomen, or a fetoscope may be placed on your abdomen at regular intervals.
- Internal monitoring uses an electrode, a small sensor attached to a wire, which is inserted into your vagina and attached to the scalp of your unborn child. Internal monitoring is usually employed when problems occur during your labor or when signals detected by an external device cannot be recorded. Internal monitoring is only used after your water has broken.
During the first stage of labor, the fetal heart rate is monitored periodically to determine whether or not your unborn child is receiving enough oxygen. Your heart rate will also be periodically monitored. During the second stage of labor, the fetal heart rate is monitored after each contraction.
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The Importance of Fetal Heart Monitoring
Fetal heart rate monitoring is helpful if you experience a high-risk pregnancy or if doctors want to monitor how preterm labor medicines might be affecting your unborn baby. It might also be used when other tests are conducted like nonstress tests, contraction stress tests, and biophysical profiling.
Doctors might conduct three different types of tests to see how your baby’s heart reacts to different kinds of stimuli. A nonstress test will show doctors how your baby responds to his own movements in the womb. A contraction stress test will show doctors how your contractions affect your baby’s heart rate. A biophysical profile will show doctors the results of a nonstress test alongside the images seen on a traditional ultrasound. Once you are admitted to the hospital, your unborn child’s heartbeat is carefully monitored. Many factors can affect your baby’s heart rate during labor, including:
- Pain medications
- Tests conducted during labor
- Pushing during labor
Your healthcare provider may have additional reasons for monitoring your baby’s heart rate that will be explained to you as your labor progresses. In some cases, the accuracy of fetal heart rate monitoring can be adversely affected. Those factors can include your position, the position of your baby, or polyhydramnios, the presence of too much amniotic fluid. In cases where your cervix has not begun to dilate or your water has not yet broken, the internal form of fetal monitoring will not be possible.
Speak to a Lawyer Who Specializes in Birth Injuries
Repeated episodes of fetal distress can make an already tense situation even more traumatic. It can be stressful and frustrating when fetal distress makes an impact on your labor and delivery.
Your lawyer will help you understand how the law protects you and your unborn child from the financial devastation of a birth injury. Your birth injury lawyer will also fight for your rights and the rights of your child. For a free case review, call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today at (800) 222-9529.