Fetal distress

Fetal distress

In medicine (obstetrics), fetal distress is the presence of signs in a pregnant woman—before or during childbirth—that the fetus is not well or is becoming excessively fatigued.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of fetal distress include:

Some of these signs are more reliable predictors of actual distress than others. For example, cardiocartography can give high false positive rates, even when interpreted by highly experienced medical personnel. Acidosis is a highly reliable predictor, but is not always available. A highly effective method of assessment of distress would be to use fetal heart rate as a first indicator of distress, to be confirmed with a more reliable method of diagnosis before radical treatment is performed.


There are many causes of fetal distress:


In many situations fetal distress will lead the obstetrician to recommend steps to urgently deliver the baby. This can be done by induction, or in more urgent cases, a caesarean section may be performed.

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