What is fetal distress?

What Is Fetal Distress?

When a baby is not tolerating labor well, it is referred to as "fetal distress."  During fetal distress, the baby’s heart rate may drop with each contraction;  it may be flat, or it may be too low or too high.  Typically this occurs when a baby’s oxygen supply is compromised.  Babies who are doing well have strong and stable heart rates, even during contractions, and will show increased activity to appropriate stimulus.  Babies in distress will respond in a variety of ways such as passing the first stool, called meconium.  Babies can also become distressed for low amniotic fluid and cease growing properly





If your physician observes fetal distress through an ultrasound or non-stress test, she may consider inducing labor or scheduling a c-section if the situation is gravely dangerous.  If when you go into labor and your water breaks if your baby not responding well, a c-section will be considered strongly.  If it appears that you are dilated past seven centimeters and entering the transition phase, your provider may opt for augmenting your labor with pitocin to induce labor.

Your physician’s approach to meconium will depend on how it looks.  IF it is yellow it is older and less likely to be a problem.  If it is thick, green and particulate, it may have already caused your baby to "gasp" in utero.  If your doctor thinks the meconium is a problem or it is accompanied by decreased heart rates that do not recover well, a c-section will be the safest approach.

Fetal distress is a serious condition and one which warrants prompt attention. Though many babies will have decelerations during labor and delivery, how it is viewed and handle by your provider will tell you what the outcome will be. Listen closely to your provider and do what is best for your new baby.

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