Fetal distress happens when your unborn child does not receive enough oxygen. During your labor, members of your medical team might observe three different clinical patterns of acute fetal distress. The three types of fetal distress that might be observed include:
- Your baby’s heart rate is fixed and steady and doesn’t change even when he is stimulated
- Your baby’s heart rate rises too high
- Your baby’s heart rate is too low and stays low until he is safely delivered
When your doctor diagnoses fetal distress, she should confirm its presence with continuous heart rate monitoring or a fetal scalp sampling to determine how much oxygen is in your baby’s blood.
If the newborn has an Apgar score lower than three points for more than five minutes, it is typically a sign that the fetal distress may have caused brain damage. If acute enough, it could lead to death.
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Understanding Your Newborn’s Apgar Score
An Apgar test is done as soon as your baby is born, and again, five minutes later. The first one gives doctors and nurses a general idea of how your baby’s system dealt with labor and delivery. The second one tells them how well your baby is adjusting to his new environment outside the protection of your body.
While administering an Apgar test, your doctor, nurse, or midwife examines your newborn’s breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin color.
- Breathing Effort: Not breathing (zero points), slow or irregular breathing (one point), crying vigorously (two points)
- Heart Rate: No heartbeat (zero points), fewer than 100 beats per minute (one point), greater than 100 beats per minute (two points)
- Muscle Tone: Loose, floppy muscles (zero points), some muscle tone (one point), active motion (two points)
- Reflexes: No reaction (zero points), grimacing (one point), grimacing with coughing, sneezing, or vigorous crying (two points)
- Skin Color: Pale blue (zero points), pink skin with blue extremities (one point), entire pink body (two points)
An Apgar test is a routine examination that is performed to help health care providers determine whether your newborn needs help to breathe or is experiencing other heart trouble.
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Common Causes of Fetal Distress
Fetal distress can have a variety of causes. Along with identifying the type of fetal distress your child is enduring, your doctor may be able to help you understand the underlying cause of your baby’s case of fetal distress. Possible causes of fetal distress include:
- Postmaturity– a pregnancy that lasts too long
- Pregnancy complications like rapid labor
- Contractions that are too strong
- Contractions that are too close together
In most cases, monitors will signal that your baby is in fetal distress by showing a change in his heart rate. Throughout your labor and delivery, your unborn child’s fetal heart rate will be closely monitored. Your OBGYN or other medical professionals can help you understand its causes and contributing factors.
Identifying Postmaturity and Its Causes
An overdue pregnancy can cause you much worry and discomfort. Your original due date is calculated based on when your pregnancy will reach the forty-week mark. As uncomfortable as it might be, your pregnancy must extend two weeks past your anticipated due date before it is considered overdue or postmature. You are more likely to experience a postmature pregnancy under the following circumstances:
- If this is your first pregnancy
- Your expected newborn is a boy
- If a previous pregnancy was overdue
- You experience problems with your placenta
Research indicates that overdue pregnancies might put your unborn child at risk of having a significantly larger than average birth weight or of having his shoulder lodged behind your pelvic bone during delivery, a condition called shoulder dystocia.
Your newborn might also experience a post-birth condition known as postmaturity syndrome. Postmaturity syndrome is a condition characterized by a lack of body fat, so your newborn might not have the typical plump baby look, and he might also have had his first bowel movement while still in your womb.
Get the Legal Help Your Newborn Deserves
When fetal distress puts both you and your medical team on high alert. Your medical team can help you understand the cause of your child’s diagnosis of fetal distress. They can also help you understand the types of fetal distress and which one affected your son or daughter.
When you are ready to hold the right people responsible for your child’s condition during labor, delivery, and birth, or his current medical condition, you need the help of a lawyer. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation review of your case with a lawyer in your state today.