Fetal Monitoring Errors Leading to Birth Injury in Oregon

medical malpractice lawyer Bend OR

Understanding How Fetal Monitoring Errors Can Result in a Birth Injury in Oregon

During labor and delivery of a baby, both mother and baby are monitored to ensure that both mother and baby are safe and healthy during the delivery. Babies are closely monitored during the labor as there is the potential for a baby to be in distress during this time. Nurses and physicians monitor the fetal monitors and are trained to intervene in times of fetal distress. When improper monitoring occurs, it can lead to harm to the baby if fetal distress is missed. When fetal harm occurs due to improper monitoring, this is considered negligence. Fetal monitoring errors leading to a birth injury in Oregon could be very serious and result in the wrongful death of an innocent child.

Fetal Heart Rate Explained

There are guidelines which explain what the normal fetal heart rate is, if it’s too slow or if it’s too fast. A heart rate that is too slow or too fast can indicate fetal distress. Heart rate ranges for these categories include the following:

 – Normal fetal heart rate: 110-160 beats per minute

  • Fetal heart that that is too slow (bradycardia) – less than 110 beats per minute
  • Fetal heart rate that is too high (tachycardia) – above 160 beats per minute

The heart rate of the baby is to be monitored during delivery, and intervention should occur if the baby’s heart rate is out of the normal range. If a baby has an abnormal heart rate but is not yet close to term, the physician will assess the mother and baby for reasons why there is potential fetal distress. Testing may include the following:

  • Amniotic fluid volume assessment
  • Nonstress test
  • Examination of the blood flow to the placenta (doppler velocimetry
  • Biophysical profile (BPP) 
  • Testing for any potential issues with uteroplacental circulation

Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring During Labor:

As mentioned above, the fetal heart rate is monitored at all times throughout labor to ensure the baby is tolerating labor well. If the baby’s heart rate is abnormal, it is often a sign of fetal distress. This is serious because it often indications that the baby is not getting enough oxygen. 

Heart rate variability is when there is a rise and fall of the heart rate, in a normal pattern. Variability is ok if it follows a normal pattern. It is normal for a baby’s heart rate to change during accelerations but return to normal when contractions are not occurring. When there is little to no heart rate variability, this is very concerning and is considered to be an emergency. Failure to intervene could result in harm to the baby. Fetal monitoring errors could be very serious and result in serious injuries.

Common Interventions For Abnormal Heart Rates:

When there is a concern surrounding the fetal heart rate, it is important that nurses and physicians intervene. Common interventions include the following: 

  • Providing oxygen to the mother
  • Changing the position of the mother
  • IV fluid administration
  • Reducing Pitocin or Cytotec (labor inducing drugs) 
  • Stimulation of the fetal scalp
  • Conducting an amnioinfusion

If the above fails or if the there is great fetal concern without any of these interventions being conducted, a c-section should be performed immediately to eliminate harm of the baby. 

How is Fetal Heart Rate Monitored?

There are two types of fetal monitoring, internal and external. External monitoring is the most commonly known type of monitoring and involves strapping a device around the mother’s abdomen to monitor the contractions and fetal response to the contractions. Additionally, periodic external monitoring can be performed. This is when the baby is only intermittently monitored. 

Internal monitoring involves placing an electrode on the baby’s scalp. This is often more accurate than external monitoring, but can only be performed once the mother’s water has broken and membranes have been ruptured. 

For both of these methods, the data collected during the monitoring is transmitted to a machine for the nurses and physicians to review. There could be fetal monitoring errors for both of these types.

These monitoring tools are quite important as it helps to identify any signs of fetal distress. if the baby’s heart rate does not recover from the contraction, if there is abnormal deceleration (dip in heart rate) or they are occurring too frequently, this can indicate fetal distress and intervention is indicated at that time. 

Signs of Fetal Distress: 

Signs of fetal distress include the following:

  • A heart rate greater than 160
  • A heart rate less than 110 for a prolonged period of time
  • Delay in return to baseline heart rate
  • Abnormal heart rate variability

What Complications Can Cause Fetal Distress Leading to Birth Injuries? 

There are many problems that can occur in the midst of labor and delivery. An abnormal fetal heart rate is often an indication of one of these problems. These conditions include the following:

  • Umbilical cord compression
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Uterine tachysystole
  • Uteroplacental insufficiency
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion
  • Uterine rupture

What Types of Birth Injuries Can be Caused by Fetal Distress During Labor That is Not Properly Managed?

The consequences of not responding to fetal distress is great. While some of these complications below are not always due to not responding to fetal distress, it is considered medical malpractice if any of these complications occur in the setting of not responding to fetal distress appropriately. The fetal monitoring errors could result a serious personal injury to a newborn.  Examples of birth injuries that can be due to failing to respond to fetal distress include the following: 

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
  • Severe developmental disability
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Other types of brain damage
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Mental health disabilities
  • Wrongful death

How Can Complications Due to Improper Fetal Monitoring be Caused by Medical Malpractice?

While some complications cannot be anticipated or prevented, with the use of fetal monitoring, many of these complications can be avoided. Some of these complications may still occur, but what matters is the immediate intervention to prevent any of these complications from occurring. Examples as to how improper fetal monitoring leading to harm of the baby is considered medical malpractice include the following: 

  • Failing to monitor fetal heart rate, leading to missing signs of fetal distress
  • Failing to intervene when the heart rate is abnormal
  • Improper intervention in the setting of fetal distress
  • Attempting more conservative measures rather than resorting to a c-section when there is great danger to the fetus, leading to harm of the newborn

Did Fetal Monitoring Errors Harm Your Baby?  Ask Our Birth Injury Lawyer in Oregon

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.

We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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