When a baby is deprived of oxygen during birth, it is referred to as fetal distress. This is an emergency situation that can affect your baby’s brain functioning and heart rate. During labor, your baby will be monitored to check for signs of distress such as a lack of movement or abnormal heart rate. They can also check for meconium in the amniotic fluid.

While some fetal distress is unavoidable, other cases may be caused by preventable medical mistakes that led to a birth injury. You can visit this link to learn everything you need to know about birth injuries if you believe your baby’s fetal distress was caused by medical negligence.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common causes of fetal distress. Understanding what to look for can help you to protect your baby by alerting your medical team to any of the following signs.

Compressed Umbilical Cord

Sometimes during birth, a baby’s cord can become compressed, which cuts off blood flow and oxygen. This can cause fetal distress, brain damage, and heart abnormalities. Doctors may choose to treat cord compression through a process called amnioinfusion. This involves introducing a saline solution into the uterus to reduce pressure.

Abnormal Presentation

Not all babies come out head-first. When a fetus is in the wrong position in the uterus, you may end up with any of the following types of delivery:

  • Breech birth
  • Limb presentation
  • Face presentation
  • Sideways/transverse position
  • Shoulder presentation
  • Compound presentation
  • Occipitoposterior position

If your baby is not head-down in the birth canal, doctors may try to manually rotate it. When that doesn’t work, a cesarean section may be ordered.


One out of every 20 pregnant women will develop preeclampsia. This condition causes the mother’s blood pressure to rise dangerously high, and it must be seriously monitored. Preeclampsia can cause the baby’s heart to decelerate, leading to fetal distress. It can also cause poor blood flow to the placenta. This can deprive the baby of oxygen.

Vacuum Extraction or Forceps Delivery

Forceps and vacuum extractors are tools an obstetrician can use to help guide your baby through the birth canal. These tools are often used to avoid fetal distress, but they can also contribute to causing it by increasing the fetus’s risk of being stuck in the birth canal. This can cause brain damage and deprive the infant of oxygen.

Placental Abruption or Uterine Rupture

Placental abruption happens when your placenta tears away from your uterus. Uterine rupture happens when the uterine itself ruptures. This typically happens along old scar lines from past cesareans. Either of these conditions can cause fetal distress by depriving the baby of oxygen, but this doesn’t happen in every case. The sooner this is diagnosed, the better your baby’s odds will be.

Labor That Is Too Slow or Too Fast

The average length of labor and delivery will differ depending on a number of factors, including whether or not it’s your first baby, maternal age, and the strength of your contractions. Most active labor will last about eight hours, but some babies come much faster. When this happens, contractions may be too strong or too close together. When labor lasts too long, the baby can suffer from low blood sugar. Either of these can cause fetal distress.

Pregnancy That Lasts Too Long

By the time you’re in your third trimester, let’s face it, every pregnancy feels like it’s lasting too long. However, in some women, pregnancy can last 42 weeks or longer. When this happens, it can lead to a host of complications. These include:

  • Decreased amniotic fluid
  • Oversized fetus
  • Increased birth injuries
  • Problems with the placenta
  • Meconium aspiration
  • Stillbirth

Pregnancy can be one of life’s most beautiful experiences, but it can also be scary. Despite the risk of complications, most babies will be delivered healthy and safe. It is always best to be well-informed of the medical risks in any situation. You can use the information from this article to help your doctor do the best possible job of protecting your baby.