Fetal distress is a condition that can occur during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. It happens when the baby is not getting enough oxygen through the placenta.
If your doctor tells you that your baby is in fetal distress, it can be a frightening thing to hear. But what does it mean, and what should you do? In this blog post, we will discuss fetal distress in depth. We will talk about what it is, the signs of fetal distress, and how to respond if your baby is in distress. We hope this information will help you feel prepared if this situation arises during your pregnancy.
What is fetal distress?
Fetal distress is a condition that can occur during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. It happens when the baby is not getting enough oxygen through the placenta and may be at risk for serious health problems.
Fetal distress indicates that your baby isn’t adjusting well to delivery. It might signify that they require closer monitoring and perhaps a cesarean birth. Fetal distress can occur during pregnancy, but it’s more typical during childbirth.
If it isn’t treated, fetal distress can lead to the fetus breathing in meconium-rich amniotic fluid (poo). This can make it difficult for them to breathe after birth, or they may even stop breathing.
Causes of fetal distress?
Fetal distress can happen for many reasons, including:-
- The umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck
- A placenta that is not functioning properly (including placental abruption or placental insufficiency)
- The mother’s blood pressure is too high
- Mother has a health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, etc
- The mother has an infection
Risk factors for fetal distress
Several factors can increase the risk of fetal distress, such as:-
- Prolonged labor: This is when contractions are very close together and last for a long time. This can stop the baby from getting enough oxygen.
- Preeclampsia: This is when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and protein in her urine. This can also reduce the amount of oxygen that gets to the baby.
- Abnormal fetal heart rate: This can be caused by many things, such as the umbilical cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck.
- Obesity: This can make it harder for the baby to get oxygen because the mother’s extra body fat can make it difficult for the blood to circulate.
- Multiple pregnancy: This means that the mother is pregnant with more than one baby. This can put a strain on the mother’s body and make it difficult for the babies to get enough oxygen.
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is a condition in which the fetus does not grow at a normal rate inside the uterus. The placenta may be unable to deliver enough nutrients to the growing fetus, resulting in fetal distress.
- Previous stillbirth
Signs and symptoms of fetal distress
Non-reassuring fetal status (fetal distress) is characterized by :
- Fetal heart rate (FHR) that is consistently below or above the normal range.
- Abnormal changes in the FHR pattern.
- Inadequate oxygenation of the fetal blood results in low levels of pH in the umbilical cord arterial blood. (pH is a measure of acidity.)
Signs of fetal distress
The signs of fetal distress can vary, and not all women will experience them. The most common sign is a change in the baby’s heart rate. You may also experience:
- Contractions that are longer, stronger, or closer together
- An increase in vaginal discharge
- A feeling of pressure in the pelvis or rectum
- Nausea or vomiting
- Back pain
If you experience any of these signs, it’s important to contact your doctor or midwife right away. They will be able to monitor you and your baby more closely and determine if there is indeed fetal distress.
Diagnosis of fetal distress
Fetal distress is diagnosed through a variety of tests, including:
- Pelvic exam: This can help your doctor or midwife determine if the baby is in the correct position for delivery.
- Ultrasound: This can help to assess the baby’s size, position, and well-being.
- Electronic fetal monitoring (EFM): This is a continuous recording of the baby’s heart rate and the mother’s contractions. It can help to assess the baby’s well-being and how the contractions are affecting the baby.
- Amniotic fluid analysis: This can help to assess the baby’s oxygen levels and how well the placenta is functioning.
Treatment for fetal distress
The goal of treatment is to improve the baby’s oxygen levels and heart rate. This can be done through a variety of methods, including:
- Position changes: Changing the mother’s position can help to improve the baby’s oxygen levels.
- Oxygen: Oxygen therapy can help to increase the oxygen levels in the mother’s blood and help the baby get more oxygen.
- Intravenous fluids: Intravenous (IV) fluids can help to increase the mother’s blood pressure and help the baby get more oxygen.
- Medications: Medications can be given to help the baby’s heart rate and to help the mother’s blood pressure.
- Emergency cesarean section: If the baby’s heart rate is very low or the baby is not getting enough oxygen, an emergency cesarean section may be necessary.
How to respond if your baby is in distress?
If your doctor or midwife suspects that your baby is in distress, they will likely order a cesarean section (C-section). This is a surgical procedure in which the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother’s abdomen. A C-section is typically performed when there is an increased risk of complications during delivery.
After the baby is delivered, they will be closely monitored for any signs of distress. If necessary, they may be given oxygen or other treatments to help them breathe.
Complications of fetal distress
If fetal distress is not treated, it can lead to a number of complications, including:
- Hypoxia: This is when the baby does not get enough oxygen. This can lead to brain damage and other health problems.
- Anemia: This is when the blood doesn’t have enough oxygen. This can lead to heart problems and other health problems.
- Jaundice: This is when the baby’s skin and eyes turn yellow. This can be a sign of liver problems.
- Premature birth: This is when the baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies are at risk for several health problems.
- Stillbirth: This is when the baby dies before or during delivery.
It’s important to remember that fetal distress is not always preventable. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk, such as:
- Getting regular prenatal care
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding smoking
- Avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs
If you are experiencing any signs of fetal distress, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or midwife. They will be able to help you and your baby through this difficult time.