When Doctors and Nurses Ignore the Signs of Fetal Distress
Left untreated, fetal distress may cause babies permanent injuries. Also referred to as non-reassuring fetal status, fetal distress describes emergency complications during pregnancy or labor and delivery in which the baby does not get enough oxygen. To prevent this type of complication and the potential for birth injuries, physicians must take appropriate action when the signs of fetal distress present.
The Signs of Fetal Distress
While still in the womb or during labor and delivery, babies may exhibit several signs that may indicate they are suffering from oxygen deprivation. The baby moving less or having an abnormal heart rate may indicate fetal distress. Abnormal amniotic fluid may also point to complications.
Mothers may also display signs when their babies are in fetal distress. Maternal high blood pressure, cramping, or unusual bleeding may occur as a result of fetal distress; however, not all mothers display signs of this complication.
The Causes of Fetal Distress
A variety of obstetric, maternal, and fetal conditions may contribute to the occurrence of fetal distress. Some of the most common factors in causing this type of birth complication include:
- Maternal cardiovascular disease, hypertension, anemia, or diabetes
- Maternal or fetal infection
- Meconium staining
- Placental abruption
- Umbilical cord compression
Additionally, mothers sitting or lying in certain positions may put pressure on major blood vessels and cause fetal distress. Since the baby gets oxygen from the mother’s blood, putting pressure on the major blood vessels may deprive the baby of oxygen.
The Effects of Inappropriate Responses to Signs of Fetal Distress
When fetal distress goes undiagnosed or untreated, babies may go too long without oxygen, which may result in a range of temporary or permanent medical conditions. In some cases, prolonged oxygen deprivation during pregnancy or labor and delivery may cause children to develop mild learning disabilities or intellectual disabilities. Unaddressed fetal distress may also cause babies to develop conditions such as cerebral palsy or to suffer severe brain damage or death.
Responding to Signs of Fetal Distress
Health care teams must take quick and appropriate actions when the signs of fetal distress present to help prevent birth injuries. Physicians and nurses may attempt intrauterine resuscitation by changing the mothers’ positions, making certain the mothers get enough oxygen, performing certain treatments, or administering certain medications. When alternative methods do not resolve the distress, an emergency cesarean section may be necessary.