When you are told that your child is experiencing fetal distress, you immediately want to know what it is and why it is affecting your baby. Fetal distress can affect your child during your labor and before birth.
When your unborn child is in fetal distress, it means their supply of oxygen has been disrupted. It can happen when long labor or another unusual occurrence makes your labor challenging. Doctors can tell your baby is feeling the stress of labor by an unusual pattern in their heartbeat. They might treat the distress by giving you oxygen, having you lie on one side, or delivering your baby as quickly as possible.
Your baby might have a condition called birth asphyxia, which means their oxygen supply has been cut off during labor and delivery. Their heart and brain might be in trouble. Birth asphyxia can have a second stage that lasts for weeks after your baby’s birth called reperfusion injury, which happens after they’ve started getting normal amounts of blood and oxygen.
One significant way fetal distress differs from birth asphyxia is that fetal distress happens prior to the birth of your son or daughter, while birth asphyxia is assessed and diagnosed at or after your baby’s birth.
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Detecting Fetal Distress Before Your Child Is Born
While you are still pregnant and in labor, a doctor or midwife will measure your baby’s heart rate. An abnormality in your unborn child’s heart rate is a sign of fetal distress. There are three different types of fetal distress. The first one includes your baby’s heart not reacting to stimulation and just remaining steady. The second includes your baby’s heart rate increasing as your contractions get stronger. The last includes your baby’s heart rate suddenly and sharply decreasing and staying low until they are safely delivered.
A member of your medical team should be able to explain the different types of acute fetal distress and which type is affecting your unborn child.
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Detecting Birth Asphyxia After Your Child Is Born
As soon as they are born, your baby’s doctors and nurses give him an Apgar test and score. A very low score could be a sign that he was deprived of oxygen during labor.
- A mild case of birth asphyxia might result in your baby getting a little help breathing until they can manage it on their own.
- A more serious case of birth asphyxia might result in your baby getting help breathing or special treatments to manage their core temperature and blood pressure. They might also get help to control seizures or dialysis to support kidney function.
Infants who have mild or moderate asphyxia may have a full recovery. If your baby’s cells were deprived of oxygen for a longer time, their subsequent injury might be permanent and affect their brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, bowels, or other organs.
Understanding Your Newborn’s Apgar Score
An Apgar test is performed right after your baby is born and again five minutes later to tell their health care team how well they dealt with being born and how well their system is doing on its own. An Apgar test notes the following assessments:
- Breathing Effort: No breathing = zero, slow or irregular respiration = one, crying well = two
- Heart Rate: No heartbeat = zero, fewer than 100 beats per minute = one, more than 100 beats per minute = two
- Muscle Tone: Loose and floppy muscles = zero, some muscle tone = one, active motion = two
- Reflexes: No reaction = zero, grimacing = one, grimacing with cough, sneeze, or vigorous crying = two
- Skin Color: Pale blue = zero, pink body with blue extremities = one, entire pink body = two
The Apgar test is performed to determine whether your newborn needs breathing support or is having heart trouble.
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Schedule a Consultation With a Local Birth Injury Lawyer
If your child has suffered because of a lack of oxygen, whether it was classified as fetal distress or birth asphyxia, you deserve to have answers. You may also be eligible to recover compensation for you and your child. Contact a local birth injury lawyer who understands that fetal distress differs from birth asphyxia and can help you understand your legal and financial options. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to set up an appointment with a lawyer near you today.v