Improper Fetal Monitoring and Birth Injury: Here’s What You Need to Know

During child labor, it is absolutely critical that the practicing physician monitors the unborn baby’s heart rate, as appropriate monitoring is the only way to measure the baby’s relative health. If the heart rate is too high (tachycardia), too low (bradycardia) or there are any other signs of fetal distress that are not promptly addressed, in turn causing a birth injury, legal action may be needed.

Because some of us are doctors who became top cerebral palsy attorneys, we know more about improper fetal monitoring than the average lawyers. We were once there in labor and delivery rooms, following fetal monitor tracings, ensuring both the mother and baby were safe and well.

Unfortunately, sometimes the performing medical professionals misinterpret the fetal monitoring strips, thus resulting in a birth injury to the baby. For any family that is expecting a baby now or is planning to start a family in the future, be prepared and read below on what you need to know about improper fetal monitoring that causes birth injuries.

Understanding Fetal Heart Rate

To understand the health status of your unborn baby, doctors and nurses follow the baby’s heart rate. And depending on the baby’s gestational age, their heart rate can vary. Today, we are going to focus on fetal heart rate during labor.

Normal (baseline): Approximately 120 – 160 beats per minute. A normal heart rate is not a cause for concern, although constant monitoring is still needed to ensure this doesn’t change.

High: Anything that is 160 beats per minute and above. If the baby’s heart rate is high, this could mean that the baby is working harder than it needs to pump blood and oxygen to the rest of its body. If the heart rate continues to stay raised, this is a definite sign of distress and needs intervention immediately.

Low: Under 100 – 110 beats per minute. Low heart rates are usually due to a lack of oxygen or another underlying health issue. An emergency C-section is almost always a good idea if the baby’s heart rate continues to decline.

Varying: If the baby’s heart rate fluctuates between high, low, and its baseline, this indicates a healthy cardiac and circulatory system. Fetal heart rate tracings that show a jagged line (the heart rate moving up and down) means the baby is tolerating labor well.

What Influences Fetal Heart Rate

There are a number of factors that can influence an unborn baby’s heart rate and a few interventions that can be performed to normalize it.

Some fetal heart rate influences include:

  • The presence of absence of uterine tachysystole.
  • Any underlying condition the could compromise oxygen flow (preeclampsia, infection, gestational diabetes, etc.)
  • Labor Conditions
    • Rapid fetal descent
    • Uterine rupture
    • Umbilical cord prolapse

If any of the above situations occur (depending on the baby’s heart rate) your doctor can perform the following interventions:

  • Change the mother’s positioning from side to side.
  • Give the mother oxygen.
  • Give the mother IV fluids.
  • Digital/vibroacoustic scalp stimulation.

The fastest and often best way to handle any and all heart rate abnormalities and fetal distress is an emergency C-section. If you or a loved one did not receive the appropriate care and fetal monitoring during labor causing a birth injury, contact one of our experienced cerebral palsy attorneys today.

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