Fetal Distress: What you should know?

What is fetal distress?

Fetal distress refers to the signs that the baby in the womb is not well. Mostly fetal distress is not a complication of its own, but hints towards an underlying issue. Fetal distress mostly happens in the final stage of pregnancy, before the time of delivery, or during the childbirth.

Causes of fetal distress

The baby gets distressed due to a wide range of internal or external causes. The most common reason for fetal distress is when the baby does not receive enough oxygen. Other reasons include:

  • Placental abruption: It is a serious condition in which the placenta detaches from the uterus partially or wholly, before the baby is born. The baby will get no oxygen or nutrients leading to stillbirth.
  • Umbilical cord prolapse: A serious obstetrics emergency in which umbilical cord comes ahead of the baby.
  • Uterine rupture: A rare possibility when the scar of a previous caesarean section ruptures during childbirth
  • Eclampsia and Preeclampsia: Pre-eclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure in the second trimester of pregnancy. And it can lead to eclampsia, a serious condition which can put mother’s life at risk during the time of delivery.
  • Breathing problems in mother
  • Shoulder dystocia: A condition of obstructed labour.
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Abnormal presentation or growth of the baby
  • Fetal sepsis that happens in pregnancy

Symptoms of fetal distress

There are different indicators for the fetal distress, which should be immediately addressed to avoid further complications for the mother and the baby. Check for the following symptoms:

  • A decrease or increase in the fetal heart beat
  • Early decelerations or late decelerations occurring in heart beat
  • When the mother feels there is decrease in the movement of the baby
  • Difference in fetal blood lactate level
  • When meconium or the first stool of the baby gets mixed with the amniotic fluid

Risk factors of fetal distress

There are certain factors that increase the possibility of fetal distress. It includes:

  • Anaemia in the mother
  • Diabetes in the mother
  • Infection like rubella
  • Prolonged labour which stay more than 42 weeks
  • Induced labour
  • Intra-uterine growth destruction
  • Pregnancy of multiple babies like twins, triplets or more

Recognising fetal distress

It is important that you should be under medical supervision during the course of pregnancy to avoid any complications or health risks to you and the baby. One of the major ways to recognise fetal distress is by closely monitoring the heartbeat of the fetus. It will help to detect if the baby is receiving adequate amount of oxygen.

Treatment for fetal distress

You will be closely monitored if the baby shows any change in the heartbeat. The treatment for fetal distress depends on the cause, severity of the issue, if it is during labour or not, weeks of Pregnancy etc. Emergency cesarean surgery is performed to save the baby if the underlying cause of fetal distress is fatal.