When your labor and delivery are interrupted by a diagnosis of fetal distress, you are entitled to answers to the many questions you probably have. A diagnosis of fetal distress is made when your unborn son or daughter does not receive enough oxygen. Fetal distress can occur when your pregnancy lasts too long or when other pregnancy complications like rapid labor or difficult labor are present.
Doctors usually make a determination of fetal distress when they identify an abnormality in your unborn child’s heart rate pattern. As your labor progresses, your child’s heart rate will be continually monitored with electronic fetal heart monitoring or with a handheld Doppler ultrasound device. Fetal heart rate monitoring is usually conducted every 15 minutes during early labor and following each contraction during late labor.
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Treating Fetal Distress During Labor
If your doctor, nurse, or another member of your health care team detects a significant abnormality in your baby’s heart rate, it might be treated in one of the following ways:
- You might be given supplemental oxygen
- Your amount of intravenous fluid might be increased
- You might be turned onto one side or the other
- You might be prescribed analgesics
In addition to the above medical options, your doctor might take additional measures to treat a case of fetal distress. If oxytocin was used to stimulate your contractions, it will be discontinued immediately. If your labor was not medically stimulated, you might be given medication to slow or stop your contractions. If none of these measures effectively resolve fetal distress, your doctor might choose to use forceps or perform a C-section to deliver your infant as quickly as possible.
Using Forceps to Complete Delivery of Your Newborn
Medical forceps are an instrument shaped like a large pair of spoons or a large pair of salad tongs. They are applied to your unborn baby’s head to help guide him through your birth canal. Forceps are typically applied while you simultaneously push during a contraction. Your OBGYN or other health care professional may recommend a forceps delivery if:
- Your labor is not progressing
- You have heart disease or high blood pressure
- Your unborn child’s heartbeat appears problematic
- Your baby’s safety depends on an immediate delivery
The health and safety of you and your unborn baby are important. If a forceps delivery fails, your doctor may proceed with a C-section delivery.
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When an Emergency C-Section Is Warranted
The surgical procedure used to deliver your unborn child through incisions in your abdomen and uterus is called a C-section. A C-section is often scheduled in advance if you develop pregnancy complications or if you have had a previous C-section and do not want to undergo a vaginal birth after cesarean.
In other cases, a C-section is not planned in advance because the need for it does not become apparent until your labor is already in progress. Some situations where a C-section might prove to be a safer method of delivery for you and your unborn child include:
- Stalled Labor – when your cervix fails to open enough despite the presence of strong contraction for many hours
- Placenta Previa – when your placenta is covering the opening of your cervix
- Multiple Babies – when you are carrying twins or triplets and the first baby is in an abnormal birth presentation
- Fetal distress – when your doctor finds cause for concern in changes to your baby’s heart rate
If your doctor detects any of these conditions, he may suggest a C-section to deliver your baby quickly and safely.
Risks Involved in a C-Section Delivery
Although your doctor may recommend a C-section delivery if your unborn son or daughter shows signs of fetal distress, a C-section can have certain risks of its own. Risks to your infant include breathing problems and potential surgical injuries. Risks to you include:
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Adverse reactions to anesthesia
- Blood clots
- Surgical injuries
An unexpected C-section can be a daunting experience. When it leads to additional complications and injuries, it can increase the length and expense of your hospital stay. If you suffer from any of these C-section-related complications, speak to an attorney immediately.
Speak to a Fetal Distress Attorney Today
Did your unborn child show signs of fetal distress? Are they continuing to experience the effects of fetal distress and lack of oxygen during labor and delivery? If a diagnosis of fetal distress led to trying labor and delivery, and traumatic birth experience, you may need the help of a birth injury attorney.
A birth injury attorney can be your biggest advocate if your child endures fetal distress or if it led to additional complications in the aftermath of your labor and delivery. Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to discuss the details of your potential case with an attorney near you.