Fetal distress

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Fetal distress
Classification and external resources
Specialty obstetrics
ICD-10 O68
ICD-9-CM 768.2-768.4
DiseasesDB 4882
MeSH D005316

In medicine (obstetrics), the term fetal distress refers to the presence of signs in a pregnant woman[1]—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.[2]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Generally it is preferable to describe specific signs in lieu of declaring fetal distress that include:

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:


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.[2] 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.