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Fetal Distress – Definition, Symptoms, Causes, and More

Fetal Distress Definition

Fetal distress is a delicate disorder that requires close attention. The most advisable thing is to remain attentive to Alamar’s signs that may appear during pregnancy and delivery.

Generally, fetal distress occurs suddenly, hence the importance of keeping its causes in mind. It means being attentive to the evolution during pregnancy to detect complications that may arise in time.

Failure to act promptly can cause brain damage in the baby that will leave sequelae for the rest of life.

However, with technological advances in medicine, the presence of these disorders caused by fetal distress has been significantly reduced.

What are the Symptoms of Fetal Distress?

fetal distress

Fetal distress is a disturbance in exchanging oxygen and nutrients between the fetus and mother via the placenta. Usually, this situation occurs shortly before or during delivery. It is the reason why the baby should monitor to verify that he is well.

If the pregnant mother presents any of the following symptoms, she should contact her doctor immediately and follow the instructions indicated by the professional:

1. Absent of Movement

In this case, it recommends consuming something sweet and laying on the left side to monitor movements’ reappearance in a home way.

2. Vaginal Bleeding

Although vaginal bleeding may occur during pregnancy, it may only respond to the spot. In any case, if it persists or is abundant, it constitutes a sign of alarm.

3. Premature Rupture of Membranes

This condition is also known as breaking water or breaking fountains. A clear liquid with a bleach-like odour appears from the vagina.

4. Colicky

They can have various causes. They are normal if they have to do with the growth of the fetus. But if they are frequent, intense, and involve the back, they should receive attention.

5. High Blood Pressure

It is a symptom of pre-eclampsia and can be life-threatening, both for the mother and the fetus.

6. Weight Gain or Loss

It refers to an exaggerated increase or decrease in weight, which may be associated with other diseases.

7. Monitoring the Fetus

Fetal monitoring can do at home or in a clinic with appropriate devices.

What are the Causes of Fetal Distress?

fetal distress

When the delivery approaches and the mother have arrived at the hospital, one of the first protocols consists of monitoring the baby.

This procedure performs to monitor the functions of the baby in case of fetal distress.

Although the causes that generate this condition are diverse, the mother must be vigilant, especially from the third trimester. Let’s look at the most frequent etiological reasons.

1. In Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the leading causes are the following:

Maternal:  Different types of conditions that the mother presents involve a low supply of oxygen to the fetus. Among the most important are maternal hypoxia, arterial hypotension, and, conversely, arterial hypertension, or pre-eclampsia.

Placental: Originate in the placenta and can give rise to fetal distress. Among the most common are placental abruption, premature ageing of the placenta, and placenta previa.

Funiculars: It involving the umbilical cord, such as the presence of knots in it, twisting or twisting of the line, and very short extension or prolapse.

Fetal: The origin may associate with hemolytic anaemia, an infection, or Rh incompatibility between the fetus and the mother.

Uterine: They are a tumour in the uterus or due to the supine decubitus syndrome. This case happens because the woman spends too much time lying on her back, which compresses the large veins in the abdomen carry blood to the uterus.

2. In Childbirth

In addition to the causes that can occur during pregnancy giving rise to fetal distress, there are conditions during childbirth that can lead to its appearance. The most important are the following:

The age of the mother, whether it is someone very young or over 35 years old.

They are new mothers or have had many previous births.

The mother has a history of malformations, prematurity, or fetal death in previous pregnancies.

When your due date is several weeks, past or labour is very long.

If the baby is excessively broad and its exit through the vaginal canal complicate due to its size.

When Fetal Distress Occur

The evolution of fetal distress involves hypoxia (oxygen deficiency in the blood) and acidosis (accumulation of acid in the bloodstream). If it gets worse, it leads to a much more severe condition.

This situation can lead to a drop in the baby’s heart rate and blood pressure. In the most severe cases, a multi-organ failure continues, that is, of several organs at the same time. The next step is a life-threatening shock.

After birth, babies undergo the Apgar test, which consists of an assessment to determine fetal vitality upon leaving the uterus.

Likewise, a pH test carries out to assess acidosis in the newborn’s umbilical cord blood. These elements configure the basics to diagnose the existence or not of fetal distress.

Reactions of Fetal Distress

When the fetus cannot maintain its homeostasis, injury, and cell death occurs. Depending on the number of cells affected, the lesion will be larger or smaller.

In the process of decreased oxygen exchange between mother and baby, three stages can distinguish:

Reversible Injury: It is the most frequent. Cell function is affected, but the regular operation can be restored and does not leave sequelae.

Irreversible Injury: It occurs when there is cell death of parenchyma, which does not regenerate. There are sequelae, such as brain injuries.

Fetal or Neonatal Death: When the oxygen interruption is intense and lasting, it produces a parenchyma lesion essential for life, which results in death in utero or hours after birth.


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