Birth injury Due to Improper Fetal Heart Monitoring

Robenalt Law Seeks Justice for Victims of Medical Malpractice

During labor and delivery, it is imperative that the doctor and medical staff monitor the heath of the mother and the baby. One of the best ways to do this is through a fetal heart monitor. If the baby’s heart rate is too high or too low, it can indicate fetal distress which, if left untreated, can lead to harm to the baby or the mother.

Injury to or death of the mother or the baby during childbirth can be devastating for you and your family. If the doctor or medical team failed to properly monitor the baby’s heart rate and the baby or mother suffered an injury or death, the doctor might be liable for medical negligence.

Fetal Heart Monitoring Can Show Fetal Distress

Fetal heart monitoring is one of the best ways for the medical team to monitor the baby in the womb. The labor and delivery team uses specialized monitors to track the baby’s heart rate. The monitors are either placed around the mother’s abdomen or are placed on the baby’s scalp once the baby reaches the proper position in the birth canal. The baby’s vital statistics are tracked and documented to indicate whether the delivery is proceeding properly, or if there is a problem. The monitor transmits information to create a graph that the labor and delivery team can access instantly.

A heart rate monitor typically shows the baby’s heart rate on one graph, and the mother’s contractions on the other. The baby’s heart rate should drop slightly when the mother has a contraction, then return to normal once the contraction is over. If the baby’s heart rate does not return to normal, there could be a problem.

Your healthcare provider is responsible for properly monitoring this information and taking appropriate action as necessary. In many cases, it is perfectly normal for the baby to experience changing heart patterns. These changes are normal as the baby transfers from life inside to life outside. A healthy baby heart rate is usually between 110 and 160 beats per minute (BPM). But if the baby’s heart rate changes suddenly or becomes irregular, it might be a cause for concern.

Changes in the Baby’s Heart Rate – What They Mean

The changes in the baby’s heart rate can be identified as:

  • Tachycardia – the baby’s heart rate is higher than 160 BPM
  • Bradycardia – the baby’s heart rate is below 110 BPM
  • Lack of or diminished heart rate variation that coincides with fetal movement or contractions

If a baby experiences one of these conditions during delivery it is often a sign of fetal distress. Fetal distress indicates that the baby’s body is trying to compensate for a lack of oxygen, or that the baby cannot tolerate the contractions and may need to be delivered by C-section.

Tachycardia generally indicates that the baby’s heart is working harder than normal to pump blood and oxygen through the body. This compensatory mechanism can help offset a lack of oxygen but will eventually fail because a baby is not capable of maintaining such a high heart rate. The baby’s heart rate will then fall very low, which can allow for hypoxia (lack of oxygen) to set in.

If the baby’s heart rate is abnormally low (bradycardia), it can mean that the baby is not receiving enough oxygen, or that the baby has an underlying heart condition that is causing a low heart rate.

Fetal heart rate can be influenced by numerous factors, including

  • Maternal fever
  • Underlying health issues that could compromise oxygen flow, such as infection, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Labor complications, such as umbilical cord compression, placental abruption, or uterine rupture

Birth Complications Due to Improper Fetal Heart Monitoring

The medical team’s failure to monitor and recognize a concerning fetal heart rate can lead to health risks for the mother and the baby. Common birth injuries include:

  • Hypoxia/Anoxia – partial or complete deprivation of oxygen
  • Brain damage
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Paralysis
  • Nerve damage
  • Stillbirth

Depending on the severity of the damage done and the amount of time your child was improperly treated, these medical conditions can lead to severe medical consequences ranging from a temporary and treatable injury, to a life-long medical condition or disability, or even wrongful death. These situations are traumatic for you and your family and can take a tremendous financial toll.

Just because you or your child suffered an adverse outcome does not necessarily mean that your healthcare provider was negligent. Common forms of negligence that relate to fetal heart-rate monitoring include:

  • Failure to identify abnormalities
  • Failure to monitor continuously when necessary
  • Improper installation of the monitoring device
  • Misreading heart rates of the mother or child
  • Failure to take appropriate action when the mother of baby was in distress

Robenalt Law Fights for Victims of Medical Malpractice

If you believe you or your family were victims of medical negligence due to improper fetal heart monitoring, Contact an experienced Ohio medical malpractice lawyer at Robenalt Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Call 216-223-7535, complete our online form, or email

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 20 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.

Categories: Birth Defect