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Obstetric/Gynecology Malpractice

Fetal Distress

Fetal distress refers to any sign that an unborn baby is endangered, struggling, or unwell. It is a broadly applicable term that refers to the symptom of a problem, not the cause. However, while the term fetal distress is commonly used, it is not well defined. This makes it more difficult to make an accurate diagnosis and provide proper treatment. Because of the term's ambiguity, its use has the potential to lead to improper treatment.

Signs of fetal distress should always be taken seriously. It is critical that medical professionals promptly recognize and address these signs to prevent permanent injury and disability in a newborn baby. If your child has been injured as a result of fetal distress, you may want to consider getting advice from one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano who can tell you if the conditions causing the fetal distress, and the resulting injury, could have been prevented.

Signs of fetal distress may include:

  • Changes in the baby's heart rate.
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Meconium in the amniotic fluid.

Medical professionals must be especially careful in assessing maternal and fetal health in high-risk pregnancies. If physicians dismiss signs of fetal distress or failure to follow standards of care for high-risk pregnancies, this constitutes medical negligence. If this negligence leads to injury, it is medical malpractice.

The primary treatment used for non-reassuring fetal status is intrauterine resuscitation. This will help prevent any unnecessary procedures. Some means of intrauterine resuscitation include:

  • Changing the mother's position
  • Ensuring the mother is well-hydrated
  • Ensuring the mother has adequate oxygen
  • Amnioinfusion (the insertion of fluid into the amniotic cavity to alleviate compression of the umbilical cord)
  • Tocolysis (a therapy used to delay preterm labor by temporarily stopping contractions)
  • Intravenous hypertonic dextrose

There are cases in which an emergency cesarean section is necessary. However, due to the over-diagnosis of fetal distress and potential misinterpretation of the fetal heart rate, it is recommended to confirm a potential fetal distress diagnosis with a fetal blood acid-base study.

If a baby does not receive the proper treatment for fetal distress, then unfortunately, the risks could be developing conditions such as cerebral palsy and brain damage. A child may have to take medications like sedatives and anticonvulsants, use medical equipment like crutches to move around, attend regular occupational and physical therapy appointments, and have caregivers to help them in school and at home. If their condition is severe, they could have to undergo one or multiple surgeries. They may need treatment for the rest of their life.

To lower the risks of a baby experiencing fetal distress, a mother can go to all her appointments and let the doctor know about any changes in fetal activity, such as the number of kicks she's feeling. It's especially important for a mother to keep up with her appointments if she has a condition like preeclampsia or any other health issues. For example, fetal distress is more likely to occur if a mother has kidney disease, cholestasis, diabetes, or high blood pressure. If she is obese or a smoker, or she's had a stillbirth before, then the chances are higher as well.

If you or someone you are close to has been seriously injured or worse by a negligent obstetrician, you need a team that will support you through the often complex process that lies ahead. DeFrancisco & Falgiatano have experienced medical malpractice lawyers that may be able to help you recover damages from responsible parties. Our malpractice attorneys represent injured patients in Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Auburn, Elmira, Norwich, Cortland, Delhi, Herkimer, Watertown, Lowville, Oneida, Wampsville, Utica, Canandaigua, Oswego, Cooperstown, Ithaca, Lyons, and all of Upstate New York. Call our medical malpractice lawyers today for a free consultation at 833-200-2000.

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