Fetal distress can often be a sign that the baby’s brain is not getting sufficient oxygen and/or fuel. If the underlying problem causing fetal distress is not promptly fixed, a serious brain injury can occur resulting in cerebral palsy or development delays.
Doctors, nurses and midwives should be looking for signs of fetal distress. It is especially important to monitor the fetal heart rate. This can be done by periodically listening to the heart rate. This most often happens using an electronic fetal heart monitor that continuously records the fetal heart rate and the mother’s contractions.
It is critical for the safety of the baby that the baby’s heart rate be monitored at times of elevated risk and that the monitoring is correctly interpreted. If the monitoring is read by a nurse, then the nurse needs to keep the doctor informed of any changes.