Fetal distress is a condition when the fetus shows signs of distress during late pregnancy or labor. It can be dangerous and cause complications for both mother and the fetus. All in all, fetal distress is a sign that your baby is not well. It happens when the baby isn’t receiving enough oxygen through the placenta
Sign & Symptoms –
Sometimes, mothers notice signs of fetal distress on their own. These symptoms might include –
• Decreased movement by the baby in the womb
• Vaginal bleeding
• Excessive weight gain
• Inadequate weight gain
• The “baby bump” in the mother’s tummy is not progressing or looks smaller than expected
Some signs of fetal distress can only be detected by a doctor or health care provider. These include:
• Abnormal fetal heart rate
• Abnormal fetal heart rhythm
• Abnormal amniotic fluid levels
• High blood pressure in the mother
Fetal distress is associated with a number of factors, including –
• Fetal growth restriction (FGR)
• Placental abruption
• Uncontrolled diabetes
• Too much amniotic fluid
• Low levels of amniotic fluid
• A pregnancy lasting longer than 40 weeks
• Labor complications, including labor going too quickly or lasting too long
• Umbilical cord prolapse, compression or entanglement
• Staying in a position (usually flat on your back during labor) for a long period of time, which eventually puts pressure on your major blood vessels and cuts off oxygen to your baby
Risk Factors –
Fetal distress includes women with a history of –
• Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).
• Oligohydramnios or polyhydramnios.
• Multiple pregnancy.
• Rhesus sensitisation.
• Diabetes and other chronic diseases.
• Pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension.
• Decreased fetal movements.
• Recurrent antepartum haemorrhage.
• Post-term pregnancy.
Maternal age over 35 years, and particularly over 40, is an independent risk factor for uteroplacental insufficiency, fetal distress and stillbirth; the highest risk is in older women who are also nulliparous.
Long Term Side-effects
Fetal distress can have lasting effects on your baby. Prolonged lack of oxygen during delivery can lead to brain injury, cerebral palsy or even stillbirth.
The only way to examine whether your baby’s in fetal distress is with a continuous fetal monitor, nonstress test, or an ultrasound and biophysical profile.
If you’re in labor, some of the things your obstetrician may do to help during fetal distress include:
• Changing your position. This may increase the blood return to your heart and oxygen supply to the fetus.
• Giving you oxygen through a mask.
• Giving fluids through your IV line.
• Giving you medicine to slow or stop contractions.
• Amnio infusion (a procedure that places fluid in your amniotic sac to relieve umbilical cord compression).
If your baby is in trouble, your provider may need to deliver it right away. They may use forceps or a vacuum extractor if you’re fully dilated and the baby is low enough in your uterus. Otherwise, they may need to perform an emergency c-section.
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