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Fetal distress: Your doctor must be prepared to diagnose and act

Unless you have an educational and/or professional background in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, you may have little to no understanding of how to recognize signs of fetal distress during pregnancy, labor and delivery. This is why most mothers depend greatly on their doctors to monitor their conditions and to not only recognize signs of trouble but to be ready to take swift action as needed, to keep them and their babies safe.

Even if you've given birth in the past, there's no guarantee your current pregnancy will unfold the same as before. You may gain more or less weight this time, or develop an adverse health condition, such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. Your doctor is obligated to discuss signs of potential trouble with you and to be able to act under stress to make split-second decisions, if needed, to order a C-section or other procedures, if you or your child are in distress.

Issues that constitute urgent situations for moms and babies

Perhaps you mentioned to your doctor that your ankles seem to be swelling a lot as you near your due date. This may or may not be cause for concern, but you have done your part in reporting the issue to your doctor. It is up to him or her to examine you and determine if you or your baby are showing signs of trouble. The following list includes some of the most common types of problems that would prompt the average doctor to diagnose maternal or fetal distress:

  • Your body needs iron and so does your baby's. If you suffer from anemia, your doctor knows to closely monitor your situation because this is an underlying factor in many births where infants register a non-reassuring status.
  • During pregnancy, your baby has been safely floating in your uterus, surrounding by amniotic fluid. If your fluid level is too low, your baby may suffer great distress.
  • Maternal hypertension is a serious concern during pregnancy and may place you at risk for pre-eclampsia, an urgent situation that can be life-threatening.
  • If your doctor becomes aware that there is meconium in your amniotic fluid, it is a sign that your baby's airways are at risk for blockage.

You can reasonably expect your doctor, nurses and other medical staff members to act according to the highest level of accepted safety standards during your pregnancy, labor and birth of your child, as well as during the postpartum phase of care. Sadly, doctor negligence causes thousands of maternal and infant injuries in Kentucky and other medical facilities throughout the nation, every year.

What recourse do you have if it happens to you?

Birth injuries are devastating for mothers, babies and their families. Such circumstances often result in partial or full permanent disability. Cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, maternal paralysis and other adverse conditions may cause physical, emotional and financial trauma in situations that likely were preventable.

If a mother or infant suffers injury due to doctor negligence, state law allows parents to seek compensation for damages by filing medical malpractice claims in court. While financial recovery cannot replace the loss of human life and may not even be able to help achieve full physical recovery for those who survive, it can at least provide relief regarding exorbitant expenses associated with birth injuries.

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