|Classification and external resources|
In medicine (obstetrics), the term fetal distress refers to the presence of signs in a pregnant woman—before or during childbirth—that suggest that the fetus may not be well. Because of its lack of precision, the term is eschewed in modern American obstetrics.
Signs and symptoms
Generally it is preferable to describe specific signs in lieu of declaring fetal distress that include:
- Decreased movement felt by the mother
- Meconium in the amniotic fluid ("meconium stained liquor")
- Non-reassuring patterns seen on cardiotocography:
- Biochemical signs, assessed by collecting a small sample of baby's blood from a scalp prick through the open cervix in labor
Some of these signs are more reliable predictors of fetal compromise than others. For example, cardiotocography can give high false positive rates, even when interpreted by highly experienced medical personnel. Metabolic acidosis is a more reliable predictor, but is not always available.
There are many causes of "fetal distress" including:
- Breathing problems
- Abnormal position and presentation of the fetus
- Multiple births
- Shoulder dystocia
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Nuchal cord
- Placental abruption
- Premature closure of the fetal ductus arteriosus
- Uterine rupture
- Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, a liver disorder during pregnancy
Instead of referring to "fetal distress" current recommendations hold to look for more specific signs and symptoms, assess them, and take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation. Traditionally the diagnosis of "fetal distress" led the obstetrician to recommend rapid delivery by instrumental delivery or by caesarean section if vaginal delivery is not advised.
- Fetal Distress at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- ACOG. Committee Opinion, Number 326, December 2005: Inappropriate Use of the Terms Fetal Distress and Birth Asphyxia.. Retrieved June 9, 2010.