Fetal Acidosis: Causes, Treatment and Medical Malpractice

Oxygen is essential in the development of the fetus. The fetus needs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the mother to develop properly and safely. Oxygen from the mother’s lungs travels to the placenta to the umbilical cord to reach the fetus. Carbon dioxide expelled by the fetus also travels through the same path and is released when the mother exhales.

Any interruption in this pathway is potentially harmful to the baby and the mother as well. It can result in a drop in the oxygen supply to the baby, known as fetal hypoxia. Fetal hypoxia, in turn, can lead to fetal acidosis, wherein the baby’s blood becomes more acidic than normal.

What Causes Fetal Acidosis?

Causes of fetal acidosis can be classified as respiratory, metabolic, or both. Fetal acidosis cases are usually initially respiratory. Without any improvement in the supply of oxygen, the fetus will turn to anaerobic metabolism. Anaerobic metabolism can lead to an increase in lactic acid.

The causes of fetal hypoxia and acidosis can be divided into three: maternal, placental, and fetal. Causes of fetal acidosis are either acute or chronic. Acute acidosis lasts for hours, while chronic acidosis lasts for days.

  • Acute Fetal Acidosis

Maternal: Complications resulting in hypotension (low blood pressure) or hypovolemia (low blood or fluid volume) are considered as maternal factors that cause acidosis. They reduce the flow of the mother’s blood to the placenta, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the fetus.

Prolonged uterine contractions can also cause uterine blood flow interruptions, which can lead to hypoxia and acidosis.

Placental: Placental abruption, a complication where the placenta partly or completely separates uterus before birth, can cause hypoxia or acidosis. Placental abruption can decrease the supply of oxygen to the baby.

Fetal: Umbilical cord complications can affect blood and oxygen flow from the placenta to the fetus. It can occur before or during labor and delivery.

  • Chronic Fetal Acidosis

Maternal: These factors include the mother’s cardiac or respiratory disease, as well as reduced blood flow to the fetus due to pre-eclampsia and connective tissue diseases.

Placental: Pregnancies with fetal growth restriction, where the baby is smaller than the expected size for its gestational age, can result in hypoxia and acidosis.

Fetal: Conditions within the fetus, given normal placental conditions, can lead to hypoxia and acidosis.

Signs and Symptoms of Fetal Acidosis

Testing for signs of any fetal distress and complications is a must for every pregnancy. Doctors have to perform certain checks and tests at specific stages of the pregnancy to monitor both the mother and the baby. Early detection of fetal distress and complications is a must for timely treatment and intervention.

Here are some signs of fetal distress that may indicate that the fetus is in danger:

  • A decrease in fetal movement
  • Abnormalities in Biophysical Profile (BPP)
  • Abnormal amniotic fluid level
  • Cramping
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Maternal weight gain

Hypoxia and fetal acidosis can be diagnosed by using the following techniques:

  • Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring
  • Biophysical Profile Score (fetal breathing, fetal movements, gross body movement, tone, and amniotic fluid volume)
  • Doppler Ultrasonography
  • Umbilical Cord Blood Gas Analysis

Negative Effects of Fetal Acidosis on the Baby

The effects of acidosis can vary per situation. Normal fetuses can cope with and survive acidosis. In some cases, however, undetected and untreated fetal hypoxia and acidosis can have a lasting effect on the newborn. These adverse effects include but are not limited to:

Treatment of Fetal Hypoxia and Acidosis

Fetuses that experience hypoxia and acidosis are recommended to be delivered via an emergency C-section. The mother must receive oxygen, and her intravenous fluids should increase. After the baby’s delivery, it must be screened and tested immediately. These screenings can help detect complications and problems that may arise from hypoxia and acidosis.

Medical Malpractice Can Result to Fetal Acidosis

Often, fetal hypoxia and acidosis result from the negligence of your medical practitioner. Regular check-ups, growth assessments, and fetal monitoring can help detect and prevent any fetal problems that may impact the baby early. Improper use of labor-enhancing drugs or epidural can also lead to hypoxia and acidosis.

In some cases, medical practitioners fail to provide timely emergency C-section when symptoms of hypoxia and acidosis are present.

Contact The Clark Law Office for a Free Legal Consultation on Birth Injury Claims

Did your child suffer from acidosis due to suspected medical negligence? Every unborn child deserves to receive proper care to ensure that he lives a meaningful life when he is born.

If your child has suffered or is suffering from the effects of acidosis, we can help you fight for your child’s rights and claims. Our expert birth injury lawyers will promptly review and build your case. Contact The Clark Law Office for a free legal consultation.


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