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Importance of fetal monitoring to safe delivery

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2017 | Pregnancy-Related Injuries

Before and during labor, fetal monitoring can help Massachusetts mothers and their doctors know when all is going well and when problems arise. It is crucial that doctors respond appropriately to danger signals when they appear during monitoring.

MassLive reports that February 2016 brought a resolution to the Gallego family’s long-running civil suit against one of six doctors whose negligence, the family alleged, contributed to the severe disability of their daughter. Court records indicated that the pregnant mother visited the hospital because the 28-week-old fetus’s movements were decreasing. Though the doctor decided to monitor her, he did not return to the hospital in response to the warning signs of a dropping heat rate in the baby, the family argued.

The family alleged that this delay kept the baby in a “hostile uterine environment” and worsened the infection. When the infant was finally delivered by cesarean section, her heart rate had been low for eight minutes. She had suffered a severe brain injury, and she had to be resuscitated, according to the family. The jury ultimately decided in favor of the Gallegos family, awarding nearly $30 million in recompense.

This case underscores the importance of fetal monitoring, which allows doctors to measure the baby’s heart rate and respond to problems, according to Healthline. Doctors can monitor the fetus either internally or externally. During internal monitoring, a transducer is inserted through the cervical opening until it touches the infant’s scalp. During external monitoring, a tocodynamometer is wrapped around the mother’s stomach to measure fetal heart rate via high-frequency sound waves.

Monitoring is particularly vital during labor because the baby’s heart rate can indicate when the infant is at risk or distressed. Fetal monitoring also is recommended during both labor and pregnancy for mothers who have oligohydramnios (insufficient production of amniotic fluid), diabetes, hyperthyroidism, anemia or heart disease. It is also useful if the baby is presented in breech position (that is, buttocks or feet first) or for mothers who go into labor after 42 weeks or before 37 weeks. Negligence during monitoring can have severe consequences for both mother and child.