ERNST & YOUNG
Signs of Fetal Distress: Did Your Doctor Miss Something?
Pregnancy doesn’t always go as smoothly and incident-free as you would hope. Sometimes there are complications that you never expected to happen, at which point you’re supposed to be able to rely on your medical team for answers. But on some occasions, the medical professionals you trusted let you down by ignoring clear signs of fetal distress, leading to the death or permanent injury of your baby. If you suspect your doctor ignored the signs of fetal distress, here’s what you need to know about it and what your next steps should be.
Common Signs of Fetal Distress
Fetal distress, which is also often referred to as non-reassuring fetal status, describes a situation in which the fetus does not get enough oxygen during pregnancy or labor. As a result, the fetal heart rate drops, which can lead to disability or death if the issue is not corrected right away.
Some signs of fetal distress are clear enough for the mother to notice at home, such as the following:
- Decreased fetal movement during pregnancy
- Vaginal bleeding
- Too much or too little weight gain
In many cases, these signs may prompt you to call the doctor or go to the hospital during pregnancy, at which time your doctor is supposed to monitor and treat you. If your doctor didn’t take these signs of fetal distress seriously enough to give you the proper exams, lab draws, or scans, you should talk to a medical malpractice lawyer today.
Other signs of fetal distress are difficult or impossible for most mothers to notice, since they require special medical equipment and knowledge to diagnose. For instance, abnormal fetal heart rate or rhythm are signs of fetal distress, but most mothers don’t have the equipment to monitor these, so they rely on their doctor for fetal heart rate monitoring.
Abnormal amniotic fluid levels can also be a sign of fetal distress, but only a doctor can measure this. Additionally, getting abnormal results on a biophysical profile (BPP) is a sign that the fetus is in distress in the womb, and you can only get this kind of monitoring through a doctor. Finally, high blood pressure in the mother is another sign of fetal distress, and many women aren’t aware they have this condition until they visit their doctor during pregnancy.
How Your Doctor May Have Missed These Signs
It is the responsibility of your doctor to take any signs of fetal distress seriously, as he or she should have the equipment and skills necessary to monitor and resolve any issues before the baby suffers death or permanent injury. If you presented to your doctor with any of these signs of fetal distress, and he or she did not help, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
When a doctor misses the signs of fetal distress, it’s often due to medical negligence because he or she has chosen not to monitor the issue or take immediate action when it’s clear the baby is in distress. For example, if the fetal distress is due to gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or maternal infection, it’s the job of your doctor to detect, monitor, and treat this issue before the baby is negatively affected. If you did not have the opportunity to undergo testing or physical exams to check for these problems during pregnancy, your doctor may have been negligent. Even if you did have the necessary testing done, your doctor may be at fault for not offering the proper monitoring or treatment.
In many cases, the signs of fetal distress show up during labor, which is why your medical team typically monitors the baby as soon as you arrive at the hospital. If there are any signs of fetal distress, the team is supposed to adjust medical care as needed, such as by giving you oxygen and fluids or repositioning you until the baby is no longer showing signs of distress. If these changes do not work and the baby is still displaying signs of distress, typically the protocol is to deliver the baby immediately, often through an emergency Cesarean section. If you feel it’s clear your doctor missed something by not providing the proper monitoring or treatment, it may be time to talk to a medical malpractice attorney.
What Your Legal Options Are
If you think it’s possible your doctor missed something during your pregnancy or labor, and it caused death or a serious injury for your baby, you might have a medical malpractice case. Pursuing a lawsuit like this could lead to the chance to hold the at-fault doctor accountable for medical negligence, and possibly help you collect the compensation you deserve after a traumatic pregnancy or delivery.
The only way to find out if you have a case is to discuss the details of the incident with an experienced medical malpractice firm. At Weltchek, Mallahan & Weltchek, our Baltimore-based legal team has handled numerous medical malpractice cases, and we’d be interested in taking a look at the details of your case. Contact us today for a free medical malpractice consultation.
About the Author
I have a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University, where I was accepted to Barrett, the Honors College. Since 2008, I have written content focusing on the law, real estate, business, insurance, travel, education, digital marketing, and social media. There are few topics I haven't written about at this point, but I love learning something new every day, so I'm always up for the fun of researching and writing about new subjects.