Doctors and nurses must monitor the mother’s and baby’s health closely during labor and delivery. Many things can go wrong without any warning during the process of giving birth.

However, doctors also have a duty to monitor for signs of fetal distress throughout a woman’s pregnancy. Numerous conditions can complicate pregnancy and put the unborn baby at risk.

Failing to monitor the baby and the mother at all stages of pregnancy, delivery, and childbirth can result in birth injuries or death of the baby and the mother.

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Common Signs of Fetal Distress

Health care providers have a duty to monitor for signs of fetal distress. At the first sign of distress, doctors and nurses must take immediate action to prevent injury or death to the unborn baby or the mother.

Some common signs of fetal distress include, but are not limited to:

  • A sudden stop or a significant decrease in the baby’s movement
  • Unusually low or high fetal heart rates
  • Very low or very high maternal weight gain
  • Meconium in the amniotic fluid
  • High levels of lactate in the infant’s blood
  • Cramping or vaginal bleeding

Certain risk factors can increase the chance of problems during pregnancy and delivery. For example, multiple births, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), the mother being over 35 years of age, and having too much amniotic fluid (hydramnios) can increase the risk of fetal distress.

If medical professionals fail to monitor the mother for risks that could increase fetal distress, that could create a dangerous and deadly situation for the child and mother.

Common Causes of Fetal Distress

Many health conditions and incidents during pregnancy can cause fetal distress. Physicians and nurses should question the mother during each visit about specific conditions that could lead to fetal distress.

Nurses and doctors should use fetal monitors to watch the baby’s heart rate and other vitals. Some monitors are attached to the mother’s abdomen. However, monitors may be attached to the infant’s head through the mother’s vagina during difficult births.

Some of the most common causes of fetal distress include, but are not limited to:

  • Failing to monitor the infant’s vitals during labor and delivery
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Placental abruption
  • The umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck
  • Uterine rupture
  • Breech position
  • Prolonged labor
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Group B strep and other infections

In some cases, fetal distress can result from the actions of nurses or doctors during the delivery. For example, the use of vacuum extractors or improper use of forceps can cause fetal distress. Delays in a C-section can also result in fetal distress.

Severe Consequences for the Infant

There can be serious consequences for the child when signs of fetal distress are ignored. Oxygen deprivation and other results of fetal distress can result in a variety of medical conditions that impact the child’s life forever.

If a C-section or other medical intervention is delayed, a child could develop conditions including:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
  • Traumatic brain damage
  • Maternal hemorrhage
  • Broken bones
  • Developmental delays
  • Seizure disorders
  • Learning disabilities
  • Motor impairment
  • Hearing and vision impairments
  • Mental health disabilities

In some cases, failing to take immediate action to treat the causes of fetal distress can result in the mother’s or the child’s wrongful death.

Birth injuries are devastating for the infant and the parents. When birth injuries could have been prevented by adequate monitoring for signs of fetal distress, parents may also experience intense anger and frustration. It is common to want to seek justice by holding the doctors and nurses responsible for their negligence.

Consulting a medical malpractice or birth injury lawyer can help parents understand their legal rights. By obtaining legal counsel, parents can weigh their options to make a decision that is in their family’s best interests.

Filing a Claim for Birth Injuries

Doctors, nurses, and other medical providers owe a duty of care to their patients to provide care based on accepted medical standards. When they breach this duty of care, they can be held liable for civil damages.

Proving that your child’s condition is the direct result of medical malpractice can be difficult. You must gather evidence related to the injury to link the injury to the failure to monitor or act upon fetal distress symptoms.

You must also have medical experts who can testify that your physicians and nurses failed to act within the accepted medical standard of care for the specific situation. Lastly, you must prove that your child has suffered damages because of the breach of duty committed by the medical professional.

Generally, most medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years from the date of injury. Failing to talk to a birth injury lawyer as soon as possible could hurt your chance of recovering compensation for your child’s injuries and damages.

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