While most babies develop without any problems, some infants experience stress prior to birth. Situations that compromise your baby’s blood and oxygen supply can occur during pregnancy and childbirth. Certain symptoms, such as a decrease in fetal movements, may alert you to the possibility that your baby is in distress. Notify your doctor if you have any concerns regarding the health and development of your unborn baby.
Fetal distress is the term used to describe signs that indicate your unborn baby might be unwell or in danger. Vaginal bleeding is often the first sign that indicates the presence of a possible problem. Report any bleeding during pregnancy to your doctor immediately, regardless of the amount of blood. Another symptom of potential problems is a decrease in fetal movement. You may also experience abdominal pain and back pain.
Fetal problems can occur for various reasons, including accidents, illness and placental problems. An abnormal position, such as a breech presentation or transverse presentation, can increase the risk of complications, as can multiple fetuses, such as twins or triplets. An umbilical cord that is abnormally short or an injury to your abdomen can increase your risks of placental abruption, a condition that occurs when the placenta detaches from your uterus prior to the birth of your baby. Other factors that may lead to fetal distress during pregnancy and labor include an advanced maternal age, drug or alcohol use, diabetes and a large number of prior deliveries.
Fetal Movement Counts
A change in your baby’s level of activity can be a symptom of distress. As your baby grows inside your womb, you become aware of his active periods. Focusing on his movements can help you notice subtle changes. The University of Iowa Health Care recommends counting your baby’s movements. Practice this by choosing the same time every day when your baby is normally active. Sit quietly or lie on your side while you focus on your baby’s movements. Write down every movement your baby makes, noting the time of each. Stop when you reach 10 movements. Begin doing this once each day when you reach about seven months of pregnancy. Use this log to track your baby’s movements as he grows. Notify your doctor immediately if your baby doesn’t move 10 times within 2 hours or if you notice a significant change in his movements.
Depending on your specific situation, your doctor may perform a variety of tests, such as ultrasound and amniocentesis, to determine the health of your unborn baby. Non-stress testing is often helpful in uncovering fetal distress. This common, non-invasive test involves measuring uterine contractions, fetal movements and fetal heart rate.
Problems During Labor
Although labor signals the end phase of your pregnancy, your baby may still experience distress before he enters the world. While you are in labor, your doctor may attach an automatic heart rate monitor that displays information regarding the rate and strength of your baby’s heartbeat. This monitor can disclose a decline in fetal heart rate, a symptom of potential danger. Problems that can occur during birth include a prolapsed umbilical cord, in which the cord precedes your baby through the vagina. Abnormal presentations can compromise umbilical blood flow or cause your baby’s head or shoulder to lodge against your pubic bone. An ultrasound can confirm abnormal presentation. Fetal distress during labor may result in an emergency C-section can help quickly and safely deliver your baby.