Birth Injury Blog

The Risks of Sub-Standard Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring

Posted By Beam & Raymond || 6-Sep-2016

During labor and delivery, doctors should monitor your baby’s heartbeat with an electronic fetal heart rate monitor. Fetal heartrate monitoring can save unborn babies from serious, neurological injury. Failing to carefully monitor the baby’s heartrate, can cause serious health complications, including oxygen deprivation, brain damage, and cerebral palsy. Proper monitoring is particularly important when the mother has been given Pitocin (Oxytocin), a powerful drug that can cause the mother’s uterus to contract too fast or too hard (Hyper-stimulation or Tachysystole).

How Doctors Should Use Fetal Heartrate Monitoring

The average baby’s heart beats between 110 and 160 times per minute. Extreme fluctuations, like heart rate decelerations and other non-reassuring patterns, can indicate serious problems. One of the most common concerns with an abnormal heartrate is that the baby isn’t getting enough oxygen. Undetected, oxygen deprivation ( or Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy) can cause brain damage, cerebral palsy, and wrongful death.

What doctors should look for:

  • Tachycardia(fetal heartrate is too fast)
  • Bradycardia (fetal heartrate is too slow)
  • Decelerations of the baby’s heart
  • Hyper-stimulation or tachysystole of the mom’s uterus

Fetal Heart Strips & Brain Injuries

Anoxic and hypoxic brain injuries are preventable. Because doctors and nurses can monitor babies’ heartrates, warning signs of oxygen deprivation and fetal brain injury should not go unnoticed. In most cases, one of the following is responsible for fetal anoxic brain injury:

  • The doctor misdiagnosed the fetal heart strip and failed to perform a timely c-section
  • Student residents did not notify the attending OB of non-reassuring status on the fetal heart strip
  • Nursing staff misread or simply did not k now how to read the fetal heart strip and did not identify a problem
  • The doctor or nurse did not pay attention to the fetal heart strip or ignored the pattern on the strip

The Dangers of Fetal Heart Strip Mistakes

During labor and delivery, oxygen deprivation can lead to several types of neurological damage. Some of the most common are cerebral palsy, seizures, paralysis (partial or quadriplegia), brain damage, and even strokes (e.g., the middle cerebral artery). These conditions can develop if doctors fail to monitor fetal heart rate properly – even if the mother and baby experienced no other complications during the pregnancy.

What to Do If Your Child Suffered a Brain Injury at Birth

If you believe a negligent doctor or hospital caused your child’s injury, the Chicago birth injury attorneys at Beam & Raymond can help. Beam & Raymond has more than 30 years of experience helping families get the compensation their children deserve. Simply pick up the phone and contact our office for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case.

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