Most mums-to-be dream of an easy pregnancy, and also to deliver their babies smoothly and safely. Yet, for some women, birthing their babies naturally isn’t within their control. This is especially so in cases of foetal distress, where the lives of their babies, are literally hanging in the balance. A foetus is said to be in distress when he gets less oxygen than he needs to survive.
Explains Singapore Medical Group ob-gyn Dr Dharshini Gopalakrishnakone, “It is important and good to know that not all of these cases end up with Caesarean sections.” If your doctor has assessed you to be fully dilated with your baby’s head positioned low, they may attempt a forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery.
Ultimately, foetal distress may result in long-term health issues for your newborn. When your baby is deprived of oxygen, this causes his blood to become more acidic ― this may lead to brain development issues, cerebral palsy and learning difficulties. The baby can also die.
Dr Dharshini notes that in Singapore, there’s as many as in one foetal distress emergency in every four cases of labour!
Foetal distress may result in long-term health issues for your newborn…brain development issues, cerebral palsy and learning difficulties. The baby can also die.
The health of your placenta is a major reason for the baby in your womb going into distress. SmartParents expert and Gleneagles Hospital ob-gyn, Dr Christopher Chong notes that foetal distress usually results from bleeding, the placenta separating from the uterine wall and placental insufficiency. This is when the placenta is unable to provide baby with an adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen.
Umbilical cord issues are another cause for concern. Sometimes, the cord can be too short or is too tightly wound around baby’s limbs or neck. Your unborn child is also at a higher risk of distress if:
* The levels of amniotic fluids in the water bag is too high or too low.
* Baby is smaller in size or overdue.
* The mother is obese, has gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.
* The mother smokes.
Common signs of foetal distress to look out for include…
1. Vaginal bleeding Dr Chong cautions that fresh bleeding should not occur especially in the last two trimesters as this is a cause for concern. While you’re expected to bleed to some degree during labour, Dr Dharshini says that this bleeding should not bloody the amniotic fluid in the water bag. This is a sign of a possible placental abruption, which usually entails an emergency C-section.
Five more danger signs to be alert to… Coming right up!
2. Decreased foetal movement Your foetus should be moving at least 10 times over a 12-hour period. Dr Dharshini stresses, “Parents are usually also given a Foetal Kick Chart and once they note any changes within the day in terms of the baby’s pattern of kicking, they need to call their obstetrician immediately.”
3. Cramps These are different from labour pain, which progressively increases in frequency and intensity over a period of time. Dr Chong shares, “Continuous cramping can be dangerous as it could be the worst case scenario, meaning placental separation or even a uterine rupture.”
4. High blood pressure If you have gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia, your high blood pressure can cause your foetus to go into distress. If your blood pressure goes above 140/95mm Hg, you should soeek medical treatment, pronto.
“Parents are usually also given a Foetal Kick Chart and once they note any changes within the day in terms of the baby’s pattern of kicking, they need to call the obstetrician immediately.”
5. Presence of meconium When your foetus is stressed, he may empty his bowel in utero — his first poop is called meconium. Dr Dharshini explains, “Baby is at risk of meconium aspiration — inhaling the substance during his first cry — after birth. [This can lead to] problematic pneumonia and respiratory issues in newborns.”
6. High levels of blood acidity During labour, the cardiotocography scanner is how your delivery team monitors your foetus’ well-being as he may suddenly go into distress. If there are any unusual changes in the heart rate, your ob-gyn might advise you to do a Foetal Blood Sampling test. He will draw a tiny blood sample from your baby’s scalp through your cervix and test its level of acidity. A pH level of less than 7.2 is considered abnormal meaning that baby needs medical intervention or has to be delivered immediately!
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