Fetal Monitoring Errors

During labor and delivery, the medical team is required to monitor the baby and check for possible problems. Fetal monitoring is a way to recognize fetal distress and ensure that the baby is tolerating the process just fine.

Fetal monitoring is an essential procedure for the safe and healthy delivery of the baby. However, medical errors can occur when the medical team fails to administer proper fetal monitoring. It can result in a birth injury that could have been prevented.

What is Fetal Monitoring, and How Is It Done?

During labor and delivery, the medical team uses special instruments to check the fetus’s condition throughout the process. These instruments monitor the baby’s heart rate and detect any changes in the heart rate pattern. A healthy fetal heart rate depends on the gestational age of the fetus.

If the medical team detects an abnormal heart rate, they will take the necessary steps to treat the problem. Proper monitoring also prevents needless treatments that could be hazardous for the baby. Monitoring can be done continuously during labor or intermittently at set times. Here are two basic ways to monitor the fetal heart rate during labor:

  • Auscultation

Auscultation uses a special stethoscope or a Doppler transducer. These instruments are pressed against the patient’s abdomen to listen to and monitor the baby’s heartbeat. It is commonly done at set times during labor but can also be carried out more frequently in case of risks or problems.

  • Electronic Fetal Monitoring

Electronic fetal monitoring, or EFM, involves two sensors held in place over the patient’s abdomen with an elastic belt. The ultrasound probes send the fetal heartbeat to a recording device that can be printed on paper. An external tocodynamometer can also record the contraction patterns during labor.

Both of these methods are external. In some cases, they do an internal approach to fetal monitoring. It involves attaching a fetal scalp electrode through the patient’s open cervix. This procedure is administered only with patients whose water bag has raptured. Internal monitoring gives the most accurate fetal heart rate reading.

How Fetal Monitoring Prevents Birth Injury

Depending on the gestational age, a normal heart rate varies between 110 and 160 beats per minute. But during labor, the heart rises and falls in what they call a ‘variable’ rate, which indicates a normal and healthy cardiac and circulatory activity. However, if this variability becomes too rapid or absent and the fetal heart rate is flattening out, it’s a sign of fetal distress. This situation requires immediate medical intervention to prevent the risk of birth injury.

To help stabilize the baby’s heart rate and improve oxygenation, the doctor may:

  • Change the mother’s position.
  • Give the mother supplemental oxygen.
  • Provide the mother with more fluids intravenously (IV).
  • Reduce uterine contractions by administering medications.
  • By amnioinfusion, which involves introducing sterile fluid into the patient’s uterus (if the water bag has broken).
  • Fetal scalp stimulation.

In some cases, the doctor may opt to speed up delivery or perform an emergency C-section. Inside the uterus, fetal distress can difficult to treat due to the restrictive nature of its position. It is so much easier to treat fetal distress when the baby is outside of the uterus. The doctor needs to discuss all risks of monitoring and the possibility of this procedure with the patient beforehand.

Fetal Monitoring Errors: Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

When the medical team fails to detect fetal distress due to improper monitoring, it could result in a birth injury. This is serious and can be life-threatening for the mother and especially the baby. These injuries or conditions include cerebral palsy, brain damage, paralysis, stillbirth, placental abruption, and developmental delays.

Fetal monitoring errors happen due to negligence and lack of proper clinician training and experience. This negligence can be one or any combination of the following types of error:

  • Failure to correctly identify the baby’s abnormal heart rhythms;
  • Failure to recognize the heart rates — maternal versus fetal;
  • Failure to sufficiently monitor contractions;
  • Failure to establish whether the patient requires continuous fetal monitoring;
  • Failure to use the fetal monitor correctly;
  • Failure of the fetal monitoring instruments to work properly;
  • Failure to accurately read and interpret the fetal monitoring strips or device;
  • Failure to take immediate medical action in the presence of fetal distress;

The Clark Law Office Provides Legal Help for Fetal Monitoring Errors Resulting in Birth Injuries

When fetal monitoring error happens and results in birth injury, you may have a medical malpractice case and could be entitled to rightful compensation. You can use the compensation for your child’s medical care and other needs.

The birth injury lawyers at The Clark Law Office handle Michigan cases such as yours and have successfully advocated and fought for their clients’ rights to just and highest possible compensation. Let us know how we can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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