Among the most serious medical negligence cases are those involving allegations that a baby was not delivered in a timely manner. In that setting, the claim is that because the delivery did not occur in a timely manner, the baby experienced hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, and suffered brain injury.
During labor, in most situations, the mother and baby are both monitored with what is known as a fetal monitor strip. The baby’s heart rate and the mother’s contractions are both recorded in real time for review. Abnormalities or concerns with the baby’s heart rate and/or with the mother’s contractions are indicative of a potential problem with the baby and need to be watched closely.
The force of a contraction is known to stress the baby, in most cases without harm to the baby. However, if the baby’s heart rate shows an unfavorable reaction or inability to handle the stress of that minor force, it may mean that the baby is not adequately oxygenated and needs to be delivered before suffering further permanent brain injury from lack of oxygen or “hypoxia.”
Terms such as late deceleration, early deceleration, and/or variable deceleration describe the relationship of the baby’s heart rate to the timing of the contraction. Those findings need to be carefully watched by the delivering team, and if necessary, a decision can be made to deliver the baby by Cesarean section to eliminate further stress on the baby.