During pregnancy, and especially during labor and delivery, fetal heart rate monitoring is extremely important. Improper fetal heart rate monitoring can cause errors leading to injuries or death, and can be devastating to your entire family. In this post, the team at Brown & Brothers offer information for families about fetal heart rate monitoring, how errors occur, and what you need to know about protecting your legal rights.
How Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring Works
Fetal heart rate monitoring is one of the best ways that your healthcare team can monitor your child in the womb. Using specialized monitors, your baby’s heart rate can easily be tracked and documented, which can indicate to healthcare providers if your child is healthy, or if there is a problem. Monitoring your baby’s heart rate may happen in two ways:
- Internal: A monitor placed on the baby’s scalp once he or she reaches the proper position in the birth canal and adequate dilation has occurred.
- External: A monitor attached to a belt-type device that is placed around the mother’s stomach. External monitors measure the baby’s heart rate and also contractions.
These monitors transmit information to graphs that your healthcare providers have instant access to. Depending on your situation, your baby’s heart rate may be monitoring consistently, or intermittently.
Recognizing Dangerous Patterns in Fetal Heart Monitoring
Part of the responsibility of your healthcare team is recognizing dangerous patterns in your baby’s heart rate and taking appropriate action. As a parent, it is easy to be concerned about rapid heart rates or changing patterns, but in many cases, that is totally normal as your baby transfers from the womb to life in the world. Traditionally, a healthy fetal heart rate is between 110 and 160 beats per minute (BPM). Talk to your doctor about what is healthy for you individually.
Your healthcare provider may become alarmed that there is a problem if your baby’s heart rate suddenly changes or becomes irregular. These situations can be identified as:
- Bradycardia – When the baby’s heart rate drops below 110 BPM
- Tachycardia – When the baby’s heart rate rises to above 160 BPM
- Lack of, or diminished, heart rate variation coinciding with fetal movement or contractions.
Any of these situations may be concerning, and should prompt your healthcare providers to take action. When potentially dangerous healthcare situations arise, healthcare providers are required to act in a timely manner.
If you or your child were harmed due to a lack of timely healthcare, you may find it in your best interests to contact Brown & Brothers to learn more about your legal rights. Patients often find it difficult to understand the differences between unavoidable and unnecessary outcomes. Our medical malpractice and birth injury attorneys are here to help.
Dangers of Improper Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring
Failure to recognize or address a concerning fetal heart rate can lead to numerous health risks and devastating injuries. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Hypoxia/Anoxia: Deprivation of oxygen, either partial or complete
- Brain Damage
- Cerebral Palsy
- Nerve Damage
Depending on the extent of damage done, and the duration that your child is inadequately treated, these birth injuries can have many consequences. In some cases, your child suffers from a temporary injury or illness. In other cases, conditions like brain damage or cerebral palsy are significant enough to result in long-term or even lifelong disability.
Not only are such situations traumatic for you and your child, but long-term or lifelong disabilities can take a tremendous toll on your family’s emotional and financial outlook for the future.
Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring: Is it Negligence?
Just because you or your child suffered an adverse healthcare event does not mean that your healthcare provider was negligent, or that you can pursue legal action. In order to be eligible to file a lawsuit, you must be able to prove that negligence occurred. That means proving that your healthcare provider acted in a way that deviates from the accepted standards of care and as a result, you were harmed.
Some of the common forms of negligence that relate to fetal heart rate monitoring include:
- Failing to identify abnormalities
- Failure to continuously monitor heart rate when necessary
- Improperly installing a monitoring device
- Misreading heart rates or confusing heart rates of mother and child
- Failure to take action when mother or child are in distress
Proving negligence can be difficult, and requires a great deal of time and patience. This process often involves gathering numerous documents, statements, and records. Many people initiating the legal process find themselves overwhelmed with the requirements, deadlines, and potential costs. Fortunately, these challenges can be overcome with the right legal help.
Legal Guidance Families Can Trust
At Brown & Brothers, our team of medical malpractice and birth injury attorneys are passionate about helping families harmed by negligence. We work hard to ensure the legal process is as stress-free as possible for you and your loved ones. Our office offers free case evaluations for every client, so you can get the guidance you need without worrying about the cost. Complete our online form to explore your legal rights and options.