Atlanta Improper Monitoring of Fetal Heart Rate Attorneys
Giving birth is always a tense time. Extreme pressures are placed on the infant’s body as it exits the birth canal, and many things can go wrong. Doctors can see if your baby is in distress by monitoring the fetal heart rate throughout delivery, but sometimes, they fail to do so.
If you believe poor medical management was the cause of your child’s birth injury, please contact Grant Law Office at (404) 995-3955 or toll-free (866) 249-5513. Our Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers have handled many cases involving medical negligence, and we know what to look for. Your consultation is free, and if we take your case, you pay no upfront fees – we take our portion after getting justice for your family.
A too-low or a too-high heart rate can be a sign the baby isn’t getting enough oxygen during childbirth. Generally, the heart rate will increase when the baby is drawing in oxygen, and decrease when the baby is suffering some form of compression.
A baby’s heartbeat should stay between 110 and 160 beats per minute (bpm), though it may fluctuate and recover with no ill effects. Fluctuations are not always a cause for alarm, but an abnormal reading should make doctors take action, such as prolonged:
- Bradycardia: A fetal heart rate below 110 bpm
- Tachycardia: A fetal heart rate above 160 bpm
When deprived of oxygen for too long (called “hypoxia”), a baby can suffer lifelong complications, such as cerebral palsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, and other brain damage leading to learning, intellectual, or developmental disabilities.
In the United States, fetal heart rate monitoring (FHRM) is conducted electronically, through:
- External monitoring: Sensors are placed on top of the belly and attached with elastic bands, connected to a machine that reads the baby’s heart rate as well as the rate of uterine contractions. However, if the mother is overweight, the baby is small, or the baby is moving too much, external monitoring won’t be enough.
- Internal monitoring: After the mother’s amniotic sac has ruptured, doctors can place an electrode with leads inside the womb on the baby’s scalp, which will continuously monitor the baby’s heartbeat.
- Intermittent asculation: If a pregnancy is low-risk, doctors may use a stethoscope or an ultrasound to occasionally take a reading of the baby’s heartbeat. However, if anything sounds off, doctors should switch immediately to continuous monitoring.
As electronic monitoring has become widely used in the United States, there has been an increase in C-sections and forceps or vacuum extraction deliveries. Electronic monitoring is often used in conjunctions with a partogram, a single sheet of paper with key data from labor. Doctors should record cervical dilation, vital signs, how far along the baby is, when labor began, when the amniotic sac ruptured, and the mother and baby’s heart rate throughout. At a glance, they should be able to see if something is wrong.
Inadequate electronic monitoring, along with the poor use of a partogram, has been linked to increased fetal mortality. There are many ways a doctor, nurse, or other hospital staff can be negligent during childbirth. They are:
- Improperly installing the monitor
- Failing to install the monitor when required
- Failing to pay attention to the monitor
- Confusing the mother and baby’s heart rates
- Misreading the monitor
- Not taking prompt action when there are signs of fetal distress
In addition to monitoring the fetal heart rate, delivery room staff should be monitoring the mother’s contractions. If the contractions are too strong or too close together (called “tachysystole”), the baby can also suffer oxygen deprivation—and must be removed as soon as possible.
If you suspect the medical staff was negligent during your child’s birth, please call the husband and wife legal team at Grant Law Office. We are trial lawyers who have gotten very good results in serious medical malpractice cases. To schedule a free consultation, dial (404) 995-3955 or toll-free (866) 249-5513 today.
- Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring During Labor - American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Fetal Heart Monitoring: What’s Normal, What’s Not?
- Fetal Heart Monitoring - Johns Hopkins Medicine
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