How Doctors Detect Fetal Distress | Charles Thronson

How Doctors Detect Fetal Distress

November 30, 2021

Frequently, when people use the term fetal distress, what they’re actually referring to is fetal asphyxia (or birth asphyxia). This occurs when a baby does not receive sufficient oxygen during pregnancy or labor and delivery; often, the result can be severe injuries with a long-term impact. The American Pregnancy Association, however, cites the Committee on Obstetric Practice (under the umbrella of ACOG) and its concern about people using fetal distress and birth asphyxia interchangeably. ACOG’s recommendation is to use the term “non-reassuring fetal status.”

They also suggest that doctors expand the diagnosis to include “additional findings such as fetal tachycardia, bradycardia, repetitive variable decelerations, low biophysical profile, and late decelerations.”

What are Common Causes of Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress can have a range of causes — too many to name here. However, here is a brief list:

  • Anemia
  • Preeclampsia
  • Uterine rupture
  • Umbilical cord prolapse

 How Can Doctors Detect Fetal Distress?

Perhaps the most common way to identify fetal distress is to monitor fetal heart rate (FHR) throughout the pregnancy and labor and delivery. Fetal heart rate monitoring can help doctors identify changes in the mother’s contractions, recognize patterns in the fetal heart rate (and detect problems when those patterns change), and more.

Fetal distress can also be monitored through ultrasound and examining the resultant sonogram. Occasionally other diagnostic tools may be used.

What are Potential Symptoms of Fetal Distress?

Some symptoms of fetal distress may be noticeable to the mother, such as:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Cramping
  • Decreased movement of the baby

Other symptoms are more likely to be observed by a doctor due to their reliance on medical technology:

  • Increased or high blood pressure in the mother
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate or heart rhythm
  • Abnormal amniotic fluid

Skilled Birth Injury Attorney

Care of a child who experienced fetal distress can be very costly, and the impact of fetal distress is severe. Although the effects may be irreversible, it may be possible to receive financial compensation to help you care for your child. Contact our office today if you feel like your family received negligent medical care that resulted in birth injuries.

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