Treatments for Fetal Distress

When fetal distress is present, immediate action must be taken to restore proper blood supply and oxygenation to the baby.

If there are signs of fetal distress, the healthcare provider may choose to deliver the baby immediately (often by cesarean section). Often, however, he or she will take other steps first to try to improve and confirm the baby’s condition. If mother is receiving oxytocin (a drug that induces labor), the healthcare provider may stop giving it because oxytocin can affect the baby’s heart rate. If mother have been lying on her back, she may need to switch to your side. When the mother lies on her back, the uterus can press on a large vein or the umbilical cord, thereby interrupting blood flow to the baby. The healthcare provider also may give mother oxygen, which sometimes improves the baby’s heart rate. If the fetal heart rate still seems too slow, tests can be performed to confirm the baby’s condition. For example, the amniotic fluid may be checked for meconium (the baby’s first stool). Its presence in the amniotic fluid is a sign of fetal distress. The response of the fetal heart to scalp stimulation also may be evaluated. Sometimes drugs are also used to try to improve the condition of the fetus in the uterus.

If conservative measures are unsuccessful, immediate delivery of the baby (often by cesarean section) is required to avoid prolonged periods of oxygen deprivation and permanent brain damage. In certain situations, it may be appropriate to resuscitate the baby in the uterus before performing the cesarean delivery in order to decrease the risk that the baby will suffer from oxygen deprivation. This is done through the use of medication to slow down the contractions, which will increase oxygen to to the fetus; to dilate the mother’s blood vessels and raise her heart rate, which will also enhance the flow of blood. Even when this approach is appropriate, the fetus must continue to be monitored closely for signs that the treatment is not working, which would require the immediate commencement of the cesarean delivery.

The negligent failure of a healthcare provider to implement an appropriate treatment plan can result in permanent injury, or even death, to baby and mother.