If there are any indicators of fetal distress during pregnancy or childbirth, it is essential that medical professionals take swift action to prevent lasting injury, including brain damage or death. A diligent prenatal healthcare provider should be able to detect fetal distress through careful monitoring. When fetal distress is missed and left untreated, it can be grounds for pursuing a medical malpractice case with the help of a birth injury lawyer in Knoxville.

What Is Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress is something of an umbrella term that covers various signs that there is a problem with the fetus. It can occur at any point during pregnancy and labor. Due to the somewhat vague nature of the term, some practitioners prefer to use the newer term, non-reassuring fetal status (NRFS). There are various different signs that fetal distress is occurring, most often pointing to deprivation of oxygen. These signs are indicators of an emergency situation that needs attention immediately. If the natal care team does not act on these signs, and the infant is injured as a result, then it could be deemed negligence, and you would want to approach a birth injury lawyer in Knoxville to help manage your case to claim damages on behalf of your child.

What Are The Warning Signs of Fetal Distress?

Health professionals need to be able to recognize the warning signs that point to potential fetal distress as soon as they emerge to ensure a positive outcome, as a distressed fetus could be suffering from a lack of oxygen, which can lead to brain damage very quickly. It is also helpful for pregnant women to have some knowledge of the warning signs, allowing them to advocate for themselves. As a general rule of thumb, any unusual symptoms or sudden changes during pregnancy should be brought to the attention of your doctor to rule out potential fetal distress. However, some of the common indicators of fetal distress include the following:

  • Changes in Fetal Heart Rate - One of the most common and easily spotted signs of fetal distress is a slowing fetal heart rate, also known as bradycardia. The average fetal heart rate should be between 110 and 160 beats per minute. A rapid heart rate, known as tachycardia, can also be an indication of fetal distress. These changes should be picked up through routine monitoring and failure to do so is medical negligence. Speak with a birth injury lawyer in Knoxville to find out of you could pursue a lawsuit.
  • Reduction in Fetal Movement - If you are pregnant and notice any decrease in fetal movement, it is important to report it to your prenatal care team. There are many reasons that this can happen, and one of them is fetal distress. Your healthcare provider should take steps to monitor the baby and take any action necessary to avoid birth injury. Failure to act on reported reduction in fetal movement can be classed as medical negligence, in which case a birth injury lawyer in Knoxville can help you to take legal action.
  • Low Amniotic Fluid - Oligohydramnios, or low amniotic fluid, can be detected during ultrasound scans and strongly indicates a fetal growth issue or genetic disorder. It can prevent proper development of the baby’s lungs and presents a higher risk of umbilical cord compression. Both can result in oxygen deprivation and organ damage. If discovered later in pregnancy, early delivery may be recommended. If Oligohydramnios is missed on an ultrasound, you could have grounds for a lawsuit. Discuss your case with a birth injury lawyer in Knoxville to see if it is viable.
  • Vaginal Bleeding - Most pregnant women are aware that vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is abnormal and is something that can indicate severe complications with the pregnancy. It is most often associated with miscarriage, but there can be other reasons, including ectopic pregnancy and placental abruption, so it is important to seek medical attention when bleeding is noticed.

What Causes Fetal Distress?

When it comes to the cause of fetal distress, almost any condition that impacts the flow of blood and oxygen via the placenta to the baby can be a factor. Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Placenta Previa - where the placenta fully or partially covers the cervix
  • Umbilical Cord Compression
  • Umbilical Cord Prolapse
  • Pitocin & Other Induction Drugs Causing Abnormal Contractions
  • Excessively Rapid or Excessively Long Labor
  • Fetal Anemia
  • Low Amniotic Fluid
  • Preeclampsia (pregnancy hypertension)
  • Maternal Death

When fetal distress occurs, more often than not, the mother could not have done anything to prevent it. However, medical staff can reduce the risk by monitoring both the mother’s health and the fetal heart rate throughout the pregnancy and treating issues as they arise. If the doctor or other prenatal care provider fails to provide sufficient monitoring or does not act on warning signs, then they may be found negligent if the child goes on to suffer a birth injury or even death. If you believe that this has happened during your pregnancy or birth, you should make an appointment to discuss your case with a birth injury lawyer in Knoxville as soon as you can.


Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice LawBirth Injury LawTrucking Accident LawPersonal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at www.bvblaw.com or call 865-637-3531.

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