Practice Areas

Fetal Distress

New Jersey Fetal Distress Lawyers

Fetal distress refers to a baby’s injury, illness or other health issues in utero or during labor and delivery. The obstetrician and attending nurses rely heavily on fetal distress tests and monitors to provide up-to-the-second information about the health of the baby as the birth process occurs. Your obstetrician has a duty to monitor your baby’s health throughout your pregnancy and during childbirth and to respond appropriately if there are signs of fetal distress.

This typically includes:
• Evaluating maternal risk factors
• Taking precautions to prevent fetal distress, especially in high-risk pregnancies
• Recognizing signs of distress, such as the fetus’ slowed or rapid heartbeat or decreased movement
• Conducting appropriate tests to determine the causes of distress
• Evaluating the infant’s condition during the crucial hours after birth
• Responding promptly to alleviate distressing conditions
• Providing immediate treatment to prevent birth injuries

At the first sign of fetal distress, the attending physician must take quick and appropriate steps to protect the health and well-being of both the mother and child. Sometimes a speedier vaginal delivery is called for; in other circumstances, the doctor will order an emergency Cesarean section.
The primary method of diagnosing fetal distress is with a fetal heart monitor. Fetal heart monitoring lets the health care provider monitor the baby’s heart rate in the uterus, including during labor. The procedure can be done with monitors outside the body (external monitoring) or in the uterus (internal monitoring).

External fetal heart rate monitoring is done through the mother’s skin. You will sit with knees and back partially elevated with a cushion under the right hip, which moves your uterus to the left. Sensitive electrodes (connected to monitors) are placed on your abdomen over conducting jelly. The electrodes can sense the fetal heart rate. Usually, the results of this test are continuous and are printed out, or they appear on a computer screen.

Internal fetal monitoring involves placing an electrode directly on the fetal scalp through the cervix. A vaginal examination will be performed, and the electrode will be introduced with its plastic sheath into the vaginal canal. This plastic guide is moved through the cervix and placed on the fetus’s scalp, then removed. The electrode’s wire is strapped to your thigh, and attached to the monitor.

The most common cause of fetal distress is lack of oxygen delivery to the brain, known as cerebral hypoxia. This can occur because of a variety of reasons, including:

• Breathing difficulty during the initial moments after birth
• Breech position of fetus
• Umbilical cord prolapse
• Umbilical cord wrapping around the infant’s neck
• Shoulder dystocia
• Gestational fetal infection
• Premature delivery before full development of the baby’s cardiovascular system
• The baby’s larger-than-average birth weight
• Mother’s contractions are too close together
• Maternal medical condition, such as diabetes, preeclampsia or high blood pressure
• Fertility treatments leading to multiple births

If the doctor or nurses fail to properly monitor signs of fetal distress, true tragedy can result. The baby may be born with serious injuries. The worst cases involve babies who are stillborn after signs of fetal distress are disregarded.

If your baby suffered a birth injury or was stillborn, and you have questions about whether the delivery team responded appropriately to signs of fetal distress, we urge you to seek immediate legal advice about a possible medical malpractice or medical negligence claim. It is important for your lawyer to act quickly to obtain medical records and interview witnesses – before too much time passes, memories fade and records are possibly misplaced.

Depending on the injuries, the child may need a lifetime of specialized medical care and education. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit may be the parents’ best hope of obtaining the financial resources to secure proper care for their child after a birth injury based on a doctor’s failure to respond to fetal distress. Contact a law firm experienced in handling birth injury cases, such as O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble for a free no obligation consultation. You can simply contact us online or call 1-908-928-9200 or 1-800-586-5817.