Monitoring your baby’s heart rate is one of the most critical things that doctors and nurses must do during the labor and delivery process. In fact, failure to properly monitor fetal heart rate can result in severe birth injuries or even death of the child. This article provides a better understanding of the purpose of fetal heart rate monitoring, what can happen when negligence during birth occurs, and the legal options available to victims of fetal heart rate monitoring errors in New Jersey.
What is Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring?
Fetal heart rate monitoring is the process of tracking a fetus’s heart rate during labor and delivery. Heart rate is the speed at which the heart contracts, also known as the heart beat. Measuring heart rate is done by counting the number of heart contractions (or heart beats) per minute. The heart rate is expressed as a number of beats per minute (BPM). During childbirth, a fetus’s heart rate is one of the most accurate ways to assess their overall condition in the womb. It is essential for medical professionals to diligently monitor fetal heart rate and to respond immediately if the baby’s heart rate indicates possible distress.
How is Fetal Heartbeat Monitored?
There are two ways to monitor fetal heart rate during labor and delivery. The first is called auscultation, which is the process of listening to the fetal heart rate at various intervals throughout the birthing process. Healthcare providers can check fetal heart rate with a specialized stethoscope or a Doppler transducer, which measures a fetus’s heartbeat when pressed against the mother’s stomach.
The second method, electronic fetal monitoring, employs computerized monitors to continuously track the fetus’s heart beats per minute. There are two types of electronic fetal heart rate monitoring: internal and external. If the mother is sufficiently dilated and the baby has descended far enough into the birth canal, doctors can position a monitor on the baby’s scalp to determine its heart rate (internal monitoring). On the other hand, external monitoring can evaluate a baby’s heart rate through an electronic band that is wrapped around the mother’s stomach. If either form of electronic monitoring occurs, the results will be displayed on a screen connected to the device. This provides doctors and nurses with immediate access to heart rate information and a snapshot of how the baby is fairing during labor and delivery.
What is the Normal Range for Fetal Heart Rate?
Generally speaking, the normal range for fetal heart rate is 120 to 160 beats per minute (bpm). Fetal bradycardia, a slow heart beat, occurs when the baby’s heart rate is less than 110 bpm. Fetal tachycardia, a rapid heart beat, occurs when the fetus’s heart rate is over 160 bpm. Lastly, fetal tachyarrhythmia is marked by irregular heart beats that do not follow the appropriate rhythm. Any deviation from the normal fetal heart rate range may indicate a serious condition to which health care professionals should respond right away. If your baby has an abnormal heart rate reading, medical professionals must determine the underlying issue and initiate immediate medical intervention.
Depending on your specific situation, your doctor or other medical professional may order tests to identify the cause of your baby’s irregular heart rate. To correct the issue, they may request that you change position to facilitate oxygen flow to the fetus or perform an immediate cesarean (C-section) to deliver the baby without further delay.
Birth Injuries Caused by Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring Errors
If medical professionals fail to appropriately monitor fetal heart rate or take timely measures to address fetal heart rate abnormalities, the consequences can be devastating. Babies can suffer a host of birth injuries resulting from errors with fetal heart rate monitoring, some of which include:
- Permanent brain damage
- Nerve damage
- Cerebral Palsy
- Lack of oxygen (hypoxia)
- Fetal asphyxia
- Developmental delays
- Cognitive impairments
As with all birth injuries, the results of fetal monitoring errors are highly variable. Depending on what specifically happened in your child’s case, errors with heart rate monitoring or failure to respond to fetal distress in a timely manner may result in temporary complications or a permanent condition. Determining whether negligence occurred in your child’s case and if so, how health care providers failed to provide the appropriate standard of care, is the first step toward protecting your rights.
Fetal Heart Rate Birth Injury Attorneys in New Jersey
If your child suffered a harm resulting from improper fetal heart rate monitoring or failure to treat fetal distress, you may be wondering if your baby’s injuries could have been prevented. Our experienced New Jersey birth injury attorneys are dedicated to advocating for victims and their loved ones who have been failed by the medical professionals they counted on. We are committed to fighting for the justice you deserve and holding negligent healthcare providers accountable. Our law firm provides free confidential consultations so call 866-708-8617 today or fill out our online form to take the next step toward the answers you need.