An emergency C-section and fetal distress is a topic that many mothers might hear a little about before labor and delivery, with the doctor more than likely explaining that if there are problems during delivery, then a C-section may be the needed outcome. With that said, where problems can also arise is when doctors and nurses either fail to see the problems and as a result, fail to timely act on the issues.


For today’s birth injury educational article, I am going to talk about an emergency C-section and fetal distress from a medical legal standpoint. In addition, I am going to explain some of the areas of investigation into these issues when a family contacts us for help.




In the context of this article, our working definition of fetal distress is a baby that is no longer tolerating a vaginal delivery, for whatever reason. One of the ways in which doctors can determine if a baby is tolerating a vaginal delivery is through the use of the electronic fetal heart monitor. This is a device that is used in many hospitals all throughout America. Doctors and nurses are trained to understand the readings from the monitor and take those readings, in conjunction with other information available during labor and delivery and treat the baby accordingly.


Some of the areas of information that the electronic fetal heart monitor provides is the baby’s heart rate (normally between 120-160 beats per minute). It will also monitor deceleration patters if present, and variability, among other things.




When doctors and nurses fail to diagnose and treat fetal distress correctly, a baby can suffer serious injury, with some injuries dealing with the brain. A brain injury can be the result of fetal distress because if the distress is due to a reduced level of blood and oxygen during delivery, a brain injury can happen. When a brain injury is due to a reduced level of blood and oxygen, the condition is called HIE, or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. With some children who have a severe enough HIE diagnosis, cerebral palsy might be a subsequent diagnosis.


For some babies, a timely emergency C-section might be what helps them to not suffer a serious injury (this assumes there are no other developmental or genetic issues present). Where problems can occur is when the baby is struggling under fetal distress and it goes untreated for too long. A baby has mechanisms that are in place to help with the stressors of labor and delivery; however, these mechanisms cannot overcome forever. Eventually, the baby’s reserves will break down and an injury can occur.




One of the first areas of investigation when a family contacts us (after getting some background facts during their interview) is a review of the medical records. Included in this medical record review are the readings from the electronic fetal heart monitor. Based on your reading of this article, hopefully you can see why these reads are so important. It may not be enough that the doctors performed an emergency C-section if it was done in an untimely manner.


If you have more questions regarding your baby’s HIE diagnosis or brain injury at birth, or an emergency C-section and fetal distress, you can call me, and we can talk more about your baby’s story. I speak with families all the time regarding birth trauma and brain injuries, as this is what we do.


You can reach me at 301-850-4832.


Marcus B. Boston, Esq.

Boston Law Group, LLC

2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 700

Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815


1-833-4 BABY HELP

Marcus Boston is a Maryland medical malpractice attorney who helps people navigate the Maryland childbirth injury and medical malpractice process to get money for their injuries caused by the carelessness of doctors and hospitals. BLG handles cases in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, and all other Maryland Counties.