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How to Recognize Fetal Distress During Labor

During labor, it is possible that a fetus will be in fetal distress. Fetal distress is not terribly common, but if it occurs, it’s important for it to be dealt with right away.

There are some things that can be done to recognize fetal distress during labor. These steps can help protect you and your baby.


6 Steps to Recognize Fetal Distress During Labor

Fetal Distress During Labor


1. Observe the fetal heart rate patterns of the fetus with a monitor placed on the belly of the woman in labor.

If a fetus is in distress during labor, there will be decelerations in the heart rate. These decelerations can be prolonged decelerations or persistent decelerations.


2. Take note of the appearance of the amniotic fluid.

Once a woman’s amniotic sac has broken, the amniotic water can be observed. If meconium is found in the amniotic fluid or if the amniotic fluid is stained from meconium, the fetus may be in distress.


3. Allow your physician to give you an ultrasound that will indicate the position of the fetus in your uterus.

If the fetus is not in the proper position for delivery, the fetus may be in fetal distress.


4. Consent to have your physician perform fetal scalp stimulation on your baby.

During fetal scalp stimulation, a physician puts pressure on the fetus’ scalp during a pelvic examination. If a fetus is in distress, this pressure will not cause an acceleration in fetal heart rate.


5. Permit your physician to perform fetal scalp blood sampling.

In this procedure, a small amount of blood is taken from the fetus’ scalp. The pH of this blood is then tested. If the pH value is between 7.20 and 7.25, this is a borderline indicator of distress. If the pH value is lower than 7.20, this is a definitive indicator of fetal distress.


6. Discuss the next steps with your physician.

If your fetus is in distress during labor, treatments and/or immediate delivery may be necessary.


Tips & Warnings
The information in this article is not meant to serve as a substitute for regular medical care or medical advice from your physician. Always speak to your physician if you have concerns about your pregnancy or your baby.


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