Fetal distress signals, their effects, and the potential for a medical malpractice claim.
A doctor is not able to guarantee a perfect pregnancy, nor can nature. However, a doctor does have an obligation to monitor the health of the child along with the expectant mother. Legally, the doctor and/or nurses are tasked with observing fetal monitoring strips for signs of fetal distress (such as a decreased heart beat), and acting quickly to mitigate any preventable harm to the mother and child. Toward the latter stages of pregnancy, the risk of fetal distress significantly increases, and doctors are acutely aware of this.
The following are some of the most-common causes of fetal distress.
- An umbilical cord wrapping around a baby’s neck.
- An umbilical cord that becomes flat on the cervix.
- A prolapsed umbilical cord.
- Infection of the uterine or placental tissue.
- An oversized fetus.
- The baby entering into a breach position.
- The wall of the uterus being breached.
- The separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus.
- Misuse of Picotin, a labor inducing drug.
- Improper use of forceps during delivery.
Among the most important monitoring tools that your doctor will introduce to you will be the fetal heart rate monitor and the ultrasound system. Penn State Hershey states that the fetal heart rate monitoring system has the ability to “monitor the baby’s heartbeat in the uterus, including during labor.” This type of testing can be done internally or externally and can help to prevent birth injury.
Why is this test necessary?
The test is necessary so that a doctor can evaluate the fetal heart rate variability in between beats and how they compare to the uterine contractions. It can also be done to measure the frequency and the power of these uterine contractions. All of this information is important in determining how the baby is coping with the birth process. If the unborn child is not coping well then emergency treatment will be required.
The doctor and mother will work together to watch for signs of increased blood pressure, symptoms of diabetes or any other infection, because all of these will increase the risk of fetal distress occurring. A doctor is not required to be perfect, but she must provide a reasonable degree of care that has been set by the medical industry.
Fetal distress is certainly nothing to take lightly. Even short occurrences of fetal distress can cause problems with cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy and shoulder dystocia. The most damaging occurrences can result in brain damage.
The American Family Physician reviews some of these damaging conditions:
- Cerebral Palsy: This condition happens when an infection is present or when there is a low level of oxygen at the time of birth. This condition sees the loss of muscle control and a retardation of the child’s natural ability to walk or remain standing.
- Hypoxia: Caused by the deprivation of oxygen to the brain and/or other tissue. This type of injury can lead to permanent brain damage, cerebral palsy, and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
- Shoulder Dystocia: Caused by the fetus getting its shoulder stuck during birth. This can cause hemorrhaging in the mother or brachial plexus palsy (such as Erb’s Palsy) in the future baby.
These are all problems that will affect you and your child for an entire lifetime. The Rasansky Law Firm wants to stress the fact that these problems can be minimized or avoided if a doctor takes appropriate action such as suggested by The Mayo Clinic. A doctor will usually recommend a C-section if severe fetal distress is likely to affect the child.
If the doctor fails to live up to the precedent his own industry has set, then this is a case of medical malpractice. If your baby dies or is born with a birth injury because of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to damages. The best thing to do is to talk to qualified attorney who can help you build a case. Contact us today and talk to our birth injury attorneys to find out about your legal right.