baby toes with alarm on his ankle

Fetal Distress LawyersFetal Distress During Abnormal Labor

Fetal Distress induced by Abnormal Labor

A long delivery is tough on the Baby.

Abnormal Labor LawyersCauses of Abnormal Labor

The pain and emotion that mother’s endure during child birth is practically a cliché. What is not as well understood by the public is that the process is stressful for the baby. Abnormal or unhealthy levels of distress for the baby is described as fetal distress. The fetal distress lawyers at Patterson Law offer free consultations to assess whether a birth injury was preceded by fetal distress during labor and delivery. The baby just like the mother is built to withstand a certain amount of trauma during child birth. What happens to Mom and Baby when labor goes into overtime? This is one type of abnormal labor that produces fetal distress.

Labor is defined as the regular uterine contractions that are designed to force out the fetus with the membranes and the placenta out of the uterus. Normal labor is divided in three parts:

  • Regular contractions leading to the cervix becoming fully dilated.
    1. Early labor contractions last 3045 seconds and occur 5 to 20 minutes apart. The cervix dilates up to 34 centimeters.
    2. Active labor contractions last 4560 seconds and occur every 2 to 5 minutes. The mother will often feel the intensity of back pain increasing.
    3. Transition labor occurs when the cervix dilates to 10 centimeters and the contractions become very intense lasting 60 to 120 seconds with intervals of 30 to 90 seconds. The contractions are accompanied by a strong urge to push.
  • Delivery of the fetus.
  • Delivery of the placenta and other products of conception.

Abnormal labor is labor that fails to proceed over time within normal time limits of established labor. This occurs about 20 percent of the time and is the most common indication for a cesarean delivery. Most abnormal labors are due to labor progressing slowly or stopping before the baby is born. There are many causes for abnormal labor including a suboptimal pattern of contractions, problems with the birth canal, positioning of the fetus or a large fetus. An abnormal labor can still result in a vaginal delivery but the assistance of forceps or vacuum extraction may be needed.

Birth Is TraumaticLabor is Distressing!

Labor begins with regular contractions. The interval between contractions will gradually shorten and the intensity of the contractions will gradually increase. The mother will often feel pain in her back and abdomen. Management of labor does not usually begin until cervix has dilated to 34 cm with effacement. The length of labor leading to this point may be exhausting for the mother but any delay or prolongation of this phase typically is not dangerous to the baby or the mother.

As the first stage of labor shifts into active labor the cervix should progressively dilate beyond 34 cm. Active labor usually lasts about 34 hours with contractions lasting 4560 seconds and according every 25 minutes. Abnormal labor can occur where the dilation does not progress for over two hours. This is called primary dysfunctional labor. If the dilation does not progress for over two hours while contractions are continuing normally then arrested dilation has occurred. This can cause fetal distress.

The contractions as their intensity and duration increases become more painful for the mother. The contractions are squeezing the fetus. The skull of the fetus is not fully fused to permit the fetus to fit through the birth canal. The contractions can squeeze some of the blood out of the brain of the fetus. As the contraction relaxes and comes to an end the blood returns to the brain providing oxygen and nourishment. Arrested dilation can subject the fetus to well over an additional 2 hours of contractions. Late decelerations of the fetal heart rate begin at the peak of a contraction or just after a contraction has finished. They are smooth, shallow dips which mirror the contraction. If the baby’s heart rate doesn’t recover after the contraction then it may be a sign of fetal distress.

The fetal heart rate and oxygen levels are monitored during labor. Fetal monitoring alerts the doctor to dangerous fetal distress. The contractions are also monitored during delivery. One reason that a fetus may show abnormal oxygen levels and a heart rate may be due to contractions that last too long or normal lasting contractions followed by an insufficient break in the contractions to permit blood sufficient time to replenish the brain with oxygen. Variable decelerations of the fetal heart rate are irregular dips that usually occur when the baby’s umbilical cord is being compressed. This is not uncommon but it can be a concern if the variable decelerations persist. If so this may be a sign that oxygen and other important nutrients from the umbilical cord are not satiating the baby. If this is occurring fetal monitoring will show fetal distress.

The fetal distress lawyers at Patterson Law offer free consultations to assess whether your child’s injuries may be due to a failure to monitor and respond to signs of fetal distress.

During contractions the rate of oxygenated blood to the baby slows and the baby has to rely in part on oxygenated blood already in the baby. If the amount of oxygen is insufficient the baby will show signs of distress that can and should be detected by the fetal monitoring. This monitoring should alert the doctors if emergency care is needed to prevent fetal brain damage that may lead to cerebral palsy, seizures or death.

Child Birth Is A Dance Choreographed By NatureFetal Monitoring Should Warn Doctors of Dangerous Deviations in the Dance

The transition phase is marked by intense contractions with the mother feeling the need to push. Pushing, like the contractions places stress on the fetus. The fetal heart rate will often decelerate during the pushes. Early decelerations occur when the baby’s head is compressed, usually just before birth, while the baby is traveling through the birth canal. This can also occur if the baby is in a breech position resulting in the head being squeezed during contractions.

Abnormal labor has the potential to injure a baby. Fetal monitoring should indicate that fetal distress with sufficient time for steps to be taken to prevent a birth injury. It is important to recognize that the labor involves a not to delicate dance between mother and baby. This is a dance with its own rhythm, timing and beat. The contractions, movements and pushes need to stay in rhythm or the baby may suffer a permanent injury. If you are concerned that your baby may have suffered a serious birth injury as a result of a failure to respond to fetal distress during abnormal labor please give the fetal distress lawyers at Patterson Law a call to schedule a free consultation.

Mr. Patterson’s compassion and competency are boundless. He kept me informed throughout the process and his work resulted in a more than satisfactory outcome for me. Mr. Patterson works with motivation; I firmly believe that his priority is to help those who need him.


A Personal Injury Client.

Medical errors during labor and delivery are tragic. Every newborn is a vessel of hope and potential. Medical errors during delivery often irreversibly alter the arc of hope for a child and his or her parents.

George Patterson

Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Get Started Today

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident or suffered a serious personal injury due to someone else’s negligence please contact the best personal injury lawyers at Patterson Law. George Patterson has been featured in an article published in the Best Lawyers in America. The “best” injury lawyers may be reached at their Annapolis or Bowie offices at 301-888-4878.

Schedule a Consultation