One of the scariest – and unfortunately most common – signs of a threatened miscarriage is experiencing a sensation of fetal distress. This symptom can be troubling to pinpoint because it’s often linked with other causes, such as placental abruption or pre-term labour.
But what is it about, and what can you do to avoid it?
What Is Foetal Distress
Foetal distress is a medical term that describes a condition in which the baby is in trouble.
It can happen during pregnancy, labour, or delivery. The baby’s health and well-being may be at risk if they aren’t delivered as quickly as possible.
There are several different types of foetal distress:
Early onset neonatal symptoms
These include high blood pressure in the mother (preeclampsia) and low blood sugar levels in the mother (hypoglycaemia).
Late-onset neonatal symptoms
These include premature labour and birth, low amniotic fluid levels, and placental abnormalities.
Pregnant woman looking at her bump
What Are the Signs of Foetal Distress
Some many signs and symptoms can indicate a problem with your baby. If you have any of these signs, contact your doctor immediately:
- The baby is moving less than usual or not at all. This may be because the umbilical cord has become wrapped around the baby’s neck or because there is too much amniotic fluid around him. These problems can be dangerous for the baby.
- Your water breaks early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you don’t deliver within 24 hours after your water breaks, you may need to be hospitalised for treatment.
- You have contractions that come every 5 minutes or less for an hour or more. Contractions are painful because they help push your baby out. If yours are very strong and frequent, it could mean that your labour will start soon (within a few hours), and you’ll need to go to the hospital immediately to prevent complications during delivery.
- The baby’s heartbeat is too slow. A baby’s heart rate can slow when it is in distress for a long time. The baby’s heartbeat often indicates this is less than 100 beats per minute.
- You experience pain in your abdomen, back or on one side of your body. You may also feel dizzy or lightheaded, have a fever or chills, nausea or vomiting and contractions that are more painful than usual (or no pain at all).
What Causes Foetal Distress
Fetal distress can occur before or during labour and can be dangerous for both mother and baby.
The causes of fetal distress are varied but include:
Maternal factors are the most common cause of foetal distress. These factors include:
Some placentas don’t function properly and fail to deliver enough blood to the baby. Placental factors can cause foetal distress. Some examples of placental problems that can lead to foetal distress include:
- Placenta previa – the placenta covers the cervix, which blocks the baby from exiting the birth canal.
- Placenta accreta is when the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall, which can disrupt blood flow or cause bleeding.
- Placenta increta is when the placenta grows into muscle tissue of your uterus.
The baby’s position in the uterus
Many things can cause foetal distress, but one of the most common is the baby’s position in the uterus.
If your baby is breech (i.e., their feet or bottom is down) instead of head-down, they can get stuck in this position and not be able to move out into a better position. This can lead to problems with their lungs and heart and other complications.
Another possible cause of foetal distress is an umbilical cord prolapse, where part of the umbilical cord comes out before the rest has been delivered and clamps blood flow to your baby’s body. This can also prevent your baby from moving around freely in utero and affect their ability to breathe properly once they’re born.
Too Much Foetal Movement Distress
If you have too much foetal movement distress, your doctor recommends avoiding certain activities during your pregnancy. It’s important to follow these recommendations because they will help reduce your risk of developing complications such as preterm labour and placental abruption.
In the first trimester, you’re most likely to experience too much foetal movement distress. This is because it takes time for your body to adjust to the changes that come with pregnancy. You may also find that your baby moves around more at this time because its muscles are still developing and becoming more active!
How to Prevent Foetal Distress
While there’s no way to prevent foetal distress completely, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
- Get regular check ups with your doctor throughout your pregnancy. This will help you identify any potential issues early on to address them before they become serious problems. If you have concerns about your baby’s health or development, let your doctor know immediately so they can begin treatment as soon as possible.
- Keep a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy. Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables help nourish both mother and baby while providing them with necessary nutrients for growth and development. It also helps reduce cravings for unhealthy foods, leading to weight gain during pregnancy (and after!).
- Avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs during pregnancy unless prescribed by your doctor for medical reasons (e.g., if you have epilepsy). These substances may cause harm to both mother and child when consumed together.
- Keep track of your weight gain during pregnancy—if you’re not gaining enough weight or gaining too much, this can impact your baby’s health.
- Avoid stress as much as possible during pregnancy—stress hormones can affect the development of your baby’s lungs and heart before birth. If possible, try to relax by taking a walk or listening to music every day during pregnancy.
It’s so that you don’t have any worries weighing on your mind while carrying around another human being inside of you.
Image Source: iStock
How to Manage Foetal Distress
There are some things you can do at home to help manage foetal distress:
- Eat and drink regularly
- Rest when you can, but don’t lie down flat for too long because this can reduce blood flow to the baby.
- Keep your legs raised as much as possible, either with pillows or by sitting on a higher chair than your hips.
- Avoid standing for long periods.
- Try different positions to see which is most comfortable, like lying on your side or sitting up with pillows behind you.
- Talk to your midwife or doctor if you have concerns about your baby’s movements.
What Are Some of the Procedures for Foetal Distress
Foetal distress ranges from mild to severe. A doctor may use a stethoscope or ultrasound to determine if there is foetal distress. If the doctor determines that there is foetal distress, he or she may recommend an emergency caesarean section or induction of labour.
Induction of labour can help shorten the time a woman will spend in labour if her baby is not ready to be born yet. It involves giving medication to stimulate uterine contractions until labour begins naturally. This procedure can be done at home or in the hospital.
An emergency cesarean section is performed when doctors believe there will be severe consequences if a woman carries her baby to term. This procedure involves making an incision through the abdomen and uterus. The doctors can take out the baby quickly before any harm comes to him or her.
And if it’s due to a lack of oxygen flow through the umbilical cord. It could be due to compression between his head and pelvis (when too much amniotic fluid builds up around his head).
Don’t ignore the signs, mum. If you experience any symptoms that might indicate that your baby is in distress, contact your doctor or healthcare provider without delay.
Image Source: iStock
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