Sometimes during pregnancy or labor, a fetus may appear to receive an insufficient amount of oxygen. This, parents in New Mexico should know, is called fetal distress. It should not be confused with birth asphyxia, where a baby is deprived of oxygen for a definite reason like cord compression or placental abruption. In fetal distress, the cause for oxygen deprivation is unknown at that time but is made clear based on an abnormal fetal heart rate.

Doctors can diagnose fetal distress if the heart rate is unusually fast (tachycardia), unusually slow (bradycardia), seeing abrupt decreases or taking too long to return to the baseline heart rate after a contraction. Other possible signs of fetal distress include a lack of fetal movement, cramping, vaginal bleeding and excessive weight gain in the mother. Another indication would be abnormally high or low amniotic fluid levels.

The causes of fetal distress are wide-ranging and include anemia; amniotic fluid stained with meconium, or the infant’s first stool; an intrauterine growth restriction; a pregnancy that has continued for 42 weeks or longer; and pregnancy-induced hypertension. In cases of fetal distress, doctors may recommend certain methods for increasing oxygen delivery to the fetus (intrauterine resuscitation). C-section may provide the safest and best way to get the infant out of that oxygen-deprived state.

Doctors know when pregnancies high-risk and can closely monitor them, so fetal distress normally does not lead to serious birth injuries. In other cases, it may, sometimes because of negligence on the doctor’s part. Parents could have a malpractice case on their hands if their baby has suffered, for example, brain damage as a result of negligence. They may want a lawyer to assess their case and build it up. The lawyer may negotiate for a settlement covering medical expenses and more.