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How Could Fetal Heart Rate Errors Cause Birth Injuries?


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When it comes time to deliver your baby, one of the most important things your doctor or nurse is responsible for is monitoring the baby’s heartbeat. The fetal heart rate can tell medical professionals a great number of things about the condition of your unborn child, including whether or not he or she is in distress. If the fetal heart rate is poorly monitored, not checked at all, or incorrectly examined, it could result in serious harm to both mother and baby.

About Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring

When a woman goes into labor, the doctor, nurse, midwife, or other medical staff will want to check the health of both the mother and child throughout the process in order to ensure a healthy, safe delivery. The baby’s heartbeat can be monitored in one of two ways, internally or externally. Internal fetal monitoring can only be done during labor when the woman’s cervix is dilated and her water has broken. However, these monitors are usually only used when there is a problem or a high-risk situation present. In most cases, medical professionals will opt to use external fetal monitoring.

While a doctor can use a stethoscope to listen to the baby’s heart, modern technology has enabled healthcare professionals to monitor the fetal heart rate using specialized sensors. These two sensors are strapped to the mother’s belly using an elastic band, measuring both the mother’s contractions and the baby’s heartbeat throughout the entire labor and delivery process. The machine reading the fetal heart rate will also print out a detailed transcript of everything recorded.

Potential Errors

Monitoring the heart rate is extremely important because it helps tell the nurses and doctors how the baby is doing inside the womb. However, if the medical staff is inadequately trained, underqualified, negligent, careless, or otherwise incapable of reading or monitoring the heart rate accurately, it could spell disaster for the unborn child.

Regular Monitoring

The electronic fetal monitor must be checked regularly. If the nurse, doctor, or midwife fails to check the fetal heart rate, he or she is failing to do their job. Monitoring the baby’s heart is an extremely important part of the labor process. If the baby responds poorly to the mother’s contractions, or if some other issue occurs, the medical staff could miss it if they fail to monitor the baby’s heart on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the labor and delivery process can be long, sometimes lasting longer than 24 hours. The medical staff must remain vigilant during that entire period, monitoring both the baby and the mother for any signs of distress.

Recognizing a Problem

If any abnormalities do present themselves, the medical practitioner must know how to respond. If a nurse sees something different in the baby’s heart rate, he or she must be able to recognize the problem and identify it quickly. Any delay in recognizing a problem with the fetal heart rate could result in serious birth complications.

Changes in heart rate could indicate that the baby deprived of oxygen, unable to tolerate the mother’s contractions, or otherwise distressed.

Responding to Any Changes

Once a problem has been recognized, the medical staff must respond in kind. If the monitor breaks, they must replace it with a functioning one as quickly as possible. If the fetal heart rate is not being monitored frequently enough, they must recognize this as a problem and adjust their care accordingly. Most importantly, if they notice any serious change in the baby’s heart rate that could indicate a more serious issue, they must call a doctor and administer the proper medical care.

What Could Happen?

When a baby’s heart rate is not properly monitored, it could result in serious injuries or even death.

Some of the potential dangers of poor fetal heart rate monitoring include:

  • Hypoxia

  • Anoxia

  • Brain damage

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Paralysis

  • Nerve damage

  • Stillbirth

If your baby was injured during birth due to a problem with the way the fetal heart rate was monitored, you may have a birth injury case. Contact Goodman Acker P.C. today to get discuss your case with our Detroit personal injury attorneys.