Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring

The labor and delivery process is extremely stressful. Not only does an expecting mother’s body go through an enormous amount of stress and change in a short time, but the body of the baby does as well. During labor and delivery, medical professionals are required to monitor the fetal heart rate. Fetal heart monitoring can help evaluate the health of the unborn baby to make sure they are growing strong and not under too much stress.

Electronic fetal heart monitoring allows doctors and medical professionals to detect whether a baby’s heart rate is too high, too low, or abnormal in any way. Any drastic changes can be a sign that the baby is experiencing distress, and quick actions should be made to ensure their safety.

Fetal heart rate monitors are critical in safeguarding unborn babies from unnecessary pain and suffering. Unfortunately, inadequate monitoring of the fetal heart rate can have a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of the child. The majority of birth injuries involve incidents surrounding inadequate fetal heart rate monitoring which can provide early warning signs of extreme stress.

If a medical professional failed to monitor a fetal heart monitor adequately and, as a result, your child suffered severe birth injuries, it is imperative that you reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. We at The Malpractice Group have decades of experience helping families protect their legal rights and get the justice they deserve.

Understanding Fetal Heart Rate

During pregnancy, medical professionals use electronic fetal heart monitors to make sure the baby is not experiencing any stress. There are specific heart rate ranges that can indicate whether an unborn baby is experiencing any stress and if an intervention needs to occur. The following guidelines are used to determine the condition of the baby:

  • Normal Fetal Heart Rate: This range is between 110 and 160 beats per minute
  • Slow Fetal Heart Rate: This rate is under 110 beats per minute
  • Fast Fetal Heart Rate: This is any rate over 160 beats per minute

What is considered a normal heart rate can vary depending on the gestational age of the baby and any significant changes in heart rate can be a sign that something is wrong with the baby. Babies who have irregular heart rates and are not close to term should undergo further screening for intrauterine growth restriction as well as a multitude of other complications that can reduce the flow of oxygen to the baby. Some of the tests babies should undergo, include but are not limited to:

  • Biophysical profile (BPP)
  • Nonstress test
  • Doppler velocimetry that examines blood flow into the placenta
  • Maternal testing for uteroplacental circulation problems
  • Assessment of the amniotic fluid volumes

Without adequate testing, after an irregular heartbeat is detected, your baby can suffer devastating consequences that could cause irreparable damages and lead to a lifetime of health complications.

What is Tachycardia?

Tachycardia is the term used to describe a fast fetal heart rate. Tachycardia can be caused by oxygen deprivation, infections within the amniotic fluid, maternal fever, and a myriad of other conditions. This ailment depicts that the baby’s heart is working harder than normal to pump adequate blood and oxygen to the rest of their body. Babies do not have the ability to maintain a fast heartbeat as it puts them at risk for cardiovascular failure.

What is Bradycardia?

Bradycardia, on the other hand, is a slow fetal heart rate that is caused by numerous facts. In the majority of cases, a slow heart rate is due to the deprivation of oxygen caused by underlying complications. Problems such as placental abruption, uterine rupture, or a uterine tachysystole are the leading causes of this condition. In other cases, maternal issues like seizures or hypotension can cause this complexity. When babies have slow heart rates as a result of oxygen deprivation, they may need to be delivered immediately.

The Fetal Heart Rate During Labor

During labor, the fetal heart rate is monitored continuously through the use of electronic fetal monitoring equipment. Instead of the transducer being used by hand, it is attached to a wide elastic belt that is strapped around the mother’s belly and connected to a computer screen via a cable. This type of monitoring allows the medical professional to print out the heart rate on paper. Some doctors use internal monitoring methods if they are unable to obtain a strong reading with an external monitor. These methods include attaching trackers to the head of the baby while still inside the uterus.

Whether an external or internal electronic fetal heart monitor is being used, they provide crucial information to medical professionals related to the health and safety of the baby during labor and delivery. 

If the baby’s heart shows any signs of distress, doctors reviewing the monitors can determine what, if any, actions should be made. Some of the most common intervention methods utilized when heart distress is detected in a fetus include:

  • Changing the position of the mother
  • Putting the mother on oxygen
  • Administering fluids via IV 
  • Stimulating the fetal scalp to accelerate heart rate
  • Perform an amnioinfusion
  • Reduce the frequency of contractions by lowering or eliminating Cytotec and Pitocin dosages

In some cases, an emergency C-section will need to be performed if the other interventions are not successful. Without adequate monitoring, doctors are unaware of the potential issues forming and do not take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the mother and baby. This reckless behavior can lead to heartbreaking and avoidable birth injuries.

The variability of the heart rate provides critical insight as to whether the baby is responding normally to the environment. If the fetus loses the ability to adapt to the environment, it can indicate that something is wrong. Doctors who ignore the signs presented on electronic fetal heart monitors can be held liable for injuries and damages.

The Malpractice Group Can Help You

If your child suffered a birth injury that could have been prevented through adequate fetal heart monitoring, it is crucial that you reach out to a competent medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation to help alleviate the costs of medical care and various other damages. 

Our team at The Malpractice Group is dedicated to helping victims of medical malpractice get the justice they deserve. We provide effective legal representation and aggressively negotiate full and fair settlements on behalf of victims to ensure they are able to move forward and tend to their injuries. Contact our law firm today at (312) 561-4324 to meet with our team and discuss the details of your case.