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Monitoring The Fetal Heart Rate Is Critical

Monitoring your baby’s heart rate is a good way of determining if he or she is doing well or experiencing distress. For this reason, doctors perform fetal heart rate monitoring during pregnancy, labor and delivery. Failure to properly monitor your baby’s heat rate may result in missed signals that your baby needs immediate medical help.

At the law firm of Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst in Oklahoma City, we have a dedicated legal team to represent families affected by birth injuries. If your child’s injury was caused by improper fetal heart monitoring, we will seek the compensation your family will need to meet the challenges ahead. To discuss your case with a lawyer at our firm, call 800-539-0652.

Types Of Fetal Monitoring

Doctors may perform two types of fetal heart monitoring:

  • During pregnancy and the early stages of labor, doctors may monitor a child’s heartbeat and the mother’s contractions using a special stethoscope by sensors attached to an elastic belt around the mother’ belly.
  • After the mother’s cervix has dilated to at least two centimeters, a thin wire may be attached to the baby’s scalp through the vagina.

The child’s heart rate is printed on a chart or heard as a beeping sound. Proper monitoring of a child’s heart rate can help doctors determine:

  • Whether the child is in distress
  • Whether the mother has health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Whether the mother is having preterm labor
  • Whether the baby is healthy enough for vaginal delivery or needs to be delivered by an emergency C-section

Categories Of Fetal Heart Monitoring

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) divides fetal heart tracings into three categories:

  • Category I tracings are considered normal. These show a baseline rate of 110-160 bpm, moderate variability and absence of (6-25 bpm) and absence of late or variable decelerations
  • Category II tracings are indeterminate, meaning they are not predictive of abnormal fetal acid-base status, but which may call for further testing.
  • Category III tracings are considered abnormal. An abnormal tracing may require providing oxygen to the pregnant woman or taking other steps to ensure the health of the fetus. If the tracings do not return to normal, an emergency C-section should be performed.

Our doctors work with medical experts who can review your child’s FHR tracings and determine if your doctor correctly classified it as category II or category III and responded appropriately.

What About Nonreassuring Fetal Heart Rates?

Doctors classify fetal heart rates as reassuring or nonreassuring. A reassuring heart rate is strong and regular. A regular heartbeat is associated with fetal well-being. A healthy baby’s heart rate may have periodic accelerations or decelerations lasting less than 30 seconds. Decelerations may mirror contractions.

If a child has a nonreassuring heart rate, the doctor must take immediate steps to protect the baby’s health. Examples of a fetal heart rate that is not reassuring include:

  • A rate of less than 110 beats per minute
  • A rate of more than 160 beats per minute
  • A rate does not increase by 15 beats per minute during a nonstress test
  • A rate that drops far below its baseline rate when the fetus moves

When the heart rate is nonreassuring, the fetus may be in distress. Your baby may have problems with the umbilical cord, or partial placental abruption. He or she may be unable to cope with the stress of labor, and the mother may need an emergency cesarean section.

Our attorneys work with experts who can review your child’s fetal heart monitoring and determine if your delivery doctor responded appropriately.

For More Information About Fetal Heart Monitoring

Our attorneys offer a free initial consultation to answer your questions about fetal heart monitoring and birth injuries.