Can I Sue My Doctor For Fetal Distress?

Woman embracing the pure joy of motherhood, tenderly holding her precious newborn baby

Childbirth is a complicated and sensitive process for the mother and the baby. Because of the intricacies of child delivery, accidents can happen. Childbirth accidents related to medical negligence often entail severe birth injuries, such as cerebral palsy or brain injuries.

If your child suffers any impairment because of a negligent child delivery practice, you can file a birth injury lawsuit against the doctor, the medical team, or the medical institution. However, filing a birth injury lawsuit is not easy, and there are several steps you need to take to ensure the success of your claim.

Hiring an experienced birth injury attorney is your first step toward successful legal action. Your attorney can help you review your medical history and assess if medical negligence has occurred, leading to fetal distress.

Your attorney can also help you collect the necessary evidence, build a compelling case, and ensure you receive a fair settlement for your damages. Contact The Pagan Law Firm today and let us help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

This blog post will teach you everything you need to know about fetal distress and the steps you must follow to sue your doctor for medical negligence.

What is Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress is a complication experienced by the fetus during childbirth. Many people often refer to fetal distress as birth asphyxia, a birth injury caused by a lack of oxygen to the baby during labor and delivery. While this is true to a certain degree, it’s not entirely accurate.

Birth asphyxia can cause fetal distress, but fetal distress can also be caused by various other conditions. Labor complications and maternal health problems are some of the conditions that can lead to fetal distress.

Because fetal distress is a ubiquitous term, many healthcare professionals or institutions use non-reassuring fetal status (NRFS) to replace fetal distress. Non-reassuring fetal status means the fetus is experiencing changes in heart rate, oxygen levels, or other signs that indicate there’s something wrong with the baby.

Signs and Symptoms

Fetal distress presents itself in many ways, including:

  • Abnormal fetal heart rate patterns
  • Decreased fetal activities inside the womb
  • Uterine contractions that are too strong or too frequent
  • Deficient amniotic fluid
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abnormal weight changes (sudden drop or increase in weight)
  • High blood pressure

The signs and symptoms of fetal distress vary among pregnant women. Therefore, it’s essential to have regular prenatal checkups and ultrasounds so your doctor can detect fetal distress early on and take immediate action.


Obstetricians monitor possible fetal distress by measuring your baby’s heart rate or the fetal heart rate. There are two ways obstetricians can detect fetal heart rate, and these are the following:

  • Non-stress test: This test uses an electronic fetal monitor to measure your baby’s heart rate. The doctor will equip you with an electronic sensor belt around your abdomen and monitor your baby’s heart rate. This device can also detect your uterine contractions, which could also be affected by fetal distress.
  • Biophysical profile: This is a routine test done after the 28th or 32nd week of your pregnancy. Your doctor will use an ultrasound machine to check the amniotic fluid, movements, breathing, and muscle tone of your baby.


Most fetal distress cases are observed during labor and delivery. Because of this, the medical team can only respond when they see signs of fetal distress during child delivery. Here are some of the treatment options for fetal distress during labor:

  • Correcting the mother’s position;
  • Supplying the mother with oxygen;
  • Replenishing fluids through IV (intravenous) infusions;
  • Providing medicine to ease contractions; and
  • Replenishing amniotic fluid using amnioinfusion.

To understand if you have a valid case against your negligent doctor, contact an experienced attorney at The Pagan Law Firm today. We have decades of experience and a proven track record of success!

What Are the Causes of Fetal Distress?

Many conditions or factors can cause fetal distress. The most common causes are the following:

Frequent Contractions

Contractions occur when the muscle of the uterus tightens and relaxes in preparation for labor. These muscle activities are common in the later stages of pregnancy, although you can also feel them earlier in some instances.

Contractions are commonly bearable, but frequent and strong contractions may disrupt the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the baby, resulting in fetal distress.


Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure, increased protein in the urine, and swelling.

It’s common for this condition to go unnoticed because of its lack of evident symptoms. Because of this, keeping up with your prenatal checkups is critical to identify the condition early on and receiving the necessary treatment.

Pre-eclampsia often affects regular placental blood circulation, which could cause adverse effects on the fetus, resulting in fetal distress or abnormal fetal growth.

Blood Pressure Problems

Pregnancy-related blood pressure problems can also cause fetal distress. An increase in blood pressure during pregnancy is relatively common, and it’s usually caused by stress, dehydration, or physical exertion.

If a woman’s blood pressure is too low, it could reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients the baby receives. In contrast, if the blood pressure is too high, it could cause placental abruption or other complications that can endanger the life of both the mother and the baby.

Underlying Conditions

Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, kidney problems, and heart complications, could also increase the risk of fetal distress. Pregnant women with any of these underlying conditions should have regular checkups to monitor their baby’s development and ensure the health of both mother and child.

Low Amniotic Fluid

Oligohydramnios is a medical condition in which the mother’s amniotic fluid is deficient. Amniotic fluid is vital during pregnancy because it cushions the baby, helps develop the lungs and other organs, and aids in fetal movements.

This condition could cause the umbilical cord to compress, reducing or stopping the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the baby, leading to fetal distress.

Medical Malpractice

Lastly, medical negligence could also contribute to your child’s birth injury. Your doctor should be able to identify the signs of fetal distress and adequately manage it during labor. However, if your doctor fails in this responsibility, you could file a medical negligence claim for the damage caused to your child.

Fetal distress can be caused by a variety of reasons, and doctors should always take the right action. If your doctor has failed to provide the proper care to you or your child, it is best to speak with a seasoned birth injury attorney immediately. Contact The Pagan Law Firm today and schedule a free consultation!

What Are the Potential Consequences of Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress or birth injury cases often lead to long-term physical and cognitive complications, such as cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, intellectual disability, breathing problems, or even death.

Here are some of the potential long-term consequences of fetal distress if left untreated:

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a collective term used to refer to a range of movement and posture problems caused by neurological damage in the baby’s brain. Several forms of cerebral palsy could affect your child in the following ways:

  • Spasticity or muscle stiffness
  • Dyskinesia or involuntary body movements
  • Ataxia or poor balance and coordination

Muscle stiffness or spasticity is the most common among these three, and it has several subcategories depending on the affected body region. Unfortunately, cerebral palsy is untreatable, but physical therapy can help your child manage their symptoms.

Brain Damage

Brain damage is the most severe consequence of fetal distress. When left untreated, this condition could cause a wide range of cognitive and physical disabilities, including intellectual impairment, autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, loss of vision or hearing, and more.

Fetal distress contributes to the development of brain damage in the fetus by reducing or disrupting its oxygen supply, leading to permanent damage to the baby’s brain.


Stillbirth is the most tragic consequence of fetal distress, which occurs when the baby dies before or during delivery. Several factors, including pre-eclampsia, umbilical cord problems, and birth trauma, can cause stillbirth.

People often misinterpret miscarriage as stillbirth since both have the same outcome. However, they differ when the baby dies before or during labor. Miscarriage refers to fetal death occurring before the 20th week of pregnancy, and stillbirth occurs during or after the 20th week.

Observable Impairments

Fetal distress could also lead to observable impairments, such as delay in motor development, blindness, deafness, etc. Motor development delays can include difficulty in rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking.

Babies born with fetal distress can also develop heart abnormalities, eye and skin problems, feeding difficulties, and other issues.

Cognitive and Mental Health Disabilities

Studies related to fetal distress and child development are well-defined. Researchers hypothesized that the abnormalities in fetal heart rate, commonly observed in fetal distress, could contribute to the child’s cognitive delay and mental health issues.

Cognitive disabilities, such as learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and developmental delays, can result from fetal distress. These can affect your child’s ability to think, reason, communicate, and remember tasks effectively.

In addition to cognitive disabilities, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are more likely to develop in children exposed to fetal distress during pregnancy.

If your doctor acted negligently and it resulted in fetal distress, The Pagan Law Firm can provide expert legal advice and representation. Fill out our online contact form today to discuss your birth injury case.

How to Know if Your Doctor Was Negligent

How to Know if Your Doctor Was Negligent

If you believe your doctor failed to identify and address fetal distress in time, you have the right to seek legal action against them. With the proper evidence that your doctor was negligent in their duty, you could file a medical negligence claim for the damage caused to your child.

Proving negligence in childbirth injury cases is similar to any other medical malpractice case. If you want to file a birth injury claim against your obstetrician or the hospital, here’s what you need to prove:

  • Professional duty: Your doctor had a professional obligation to provide medical care and treatment that met the accepted standards of practice in the healthcare industry. Proving this is relatively easy since it doesn’t require any specific evidence.
  • Breach of duty: This requires proof that your doctor failed to provide the accepted standard of care and treatment, leading to fetal distress. You must provide medical records, witness statements, expert opinions, and so on, to prove this point.
  • Causation: Your medical negligence claim must include a direct link between the breach of duty and the resulting fetal distress. You need to provide evidence that your doctor’s breach of duty caused the injury or condition, which can be done with an expert opinion.
  • Resulting damages: You must also prove damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and so on when filing a medical negligence claim for childbirth injury cases.

Gathering the evidence you need to prove the existence of these elements is not easy without help from experienced birth injury lawyers. Here at The Pagan Law Firm, we have a team of expert attorneys to represent you in court. Call us at 212-967-8202 today!

What Are the Potential Damages Available for a Fetal Distress Case?

As mentioned, incurred damages are one of the elements you must prove when filing birth injury claims. This is important because this will also be the basis of what you can recover if your birth injury case is successful.

The damages you can potentially recover from a fetal distress case include:

  • Medical expenses for diagnosing and treating the injury;
  • Lost wages due to missed work days, if applicable;
  • Pain and suffering caused by medical negligence;
  • Emotional distress resulting from your experience as a parent of an injured or unborn child; or
  • Funeral and other related expenses if the result was in a stillbirth.

You may also claim punitive damages if you believe your doctor acted maliciously or with blatant negligence.

It is important to note that the laws governing medical malpractice claims vary from state to state, so it’s best to consult an experienced birth injury lawyer to know what damages you can recover according to the state where you live. Call The Pagan Law Firm at 212-967-8202 today.

How to Build Your Childbirth Injury Lawsuit

Birth injury lawsuits are complex and challenging to win without help from an experienced birth injury lawyer. So, your first step should be to look for a knowledgeable and reputable birth injury attorney in your state.

Finding a trusted birth injury attorney can be challenging since most birth injury cases are high-stakes litigations that involve enormous medical institutions and established professionals.

To ensure you have the best chance of winning your case, take advantage of free consultations and browse through their case results and client review pages.

Once you have chosen the ideal legal representative for your case, you will work closely with them to build a strong and successful birth injury claim. Here’s what you can expect after hiring an experienced lawyer to help with your case:

Sending a Demand Letter

One of your attorney’s first steps would be to send a demand letter to the medical professionals (doctor or hospital) that caused your baby’s injury. In the demand letter, your lawyer will clearly state what transpired and explain why they are liable for your incurred damages.

The demand letter will commonly outline why you suspect medical negligence and how you confirmed it with evidence, as well as present a request for financial compensation to cover damages. Your attorney can help you identify a reasonable and appropriate settlement amount for your case.

Building Your Case

In some cases, the negligent doctor or hospital might comply with your demand letter, preventing the need to formalize a birth injury case. However, this rarely occurs, and when the medical provider refuses to take responsibility for your child’s injuries, you and your attorney can start building your case.

Building a solid birth injury case may involve interviewing witnesses, collecting medical documents and other evidence, analyzing expert opinions, and more. During this phase, it would help if you preserved or documented all the information, records, and conversations related to your child’s injury.

Filing a Lawsuit

Once you and your attorney have built a compelling medical malpractice case, the next step would be to enter a lawsuit against the responsible medical provider.

Filing a lawsuit requires formal and legal documents, like the complaint and summons. Depending on the state laws governing medical malpractice claims, your attorney might also need to file an affidavit of merit when you’re litigating a healthcare provider for birth injuries.

Once the medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, you will be referred to by the court as the plaintiff, while the medical provider will be referred to as the defendant.

Gathering of Evidence

After entering the lawsuit into the appropriate court in your state, the court will give your party a chance to speak with the defendant to gather more evidence that isn’t readily available. This process is often called discovery and can involve interrogations, depositions, and document requests.

Your attorney will gather additional evidence to strengthen your case during this phase. When they have gathered sufficient information, you will be ready to take on the medical provider in court.

However, you must remember that the defendant can also demand information from you during this process. This is why it’s vital to have a reliable attorney who will draft appropriate responses and protect your rights.

Negotiating a Settlement

Once your party has built a strong case against the defendant, you can enter the settlement negotiation phase with the other party. During this phase, your attorney will negotiate with the other party’s legal team for a reasonable settlement amount on your behalf.

Your lawyer will ensure to weigh all the evidence presented by both parties and determine a realistic compensation amount that adequately covers your damages. When both parties agree on the settlement, all legal action ceases and the case will be closed.

If you or the other party refuses to settle, the case will escalate to the court and undergo a trial.

Undergoing Trial or Appeal

During a trial, you and the other party will present your arguments before a judge and jury. The judge and jury will hear both sides and review the evidence before deciding who is liable for your damages.

If you win a trial, you could recover a heftier sum than what was originally offered in the settlement, but you could end up empty-handed if you lose.

The losing party can initiate an appeal if they feel the jury or judge’s ruling was unfair. During this process, both parties must go through another round of legal proceedings before the court makes a final decision. Unfortunately, this will further delay your recovery and cause further financial strain.

Schedule Your Free Consultation With The Pagan Law Firm Today!

Fetal distress is a serious and complicated matter that could inflict life-long ramifications on your child. Standing up against large medical institutions or medical professionals can be daunting. But with the right legal representation, you could attain the justice your family deserves.

With countless personal injury law firms scattered across New York, finding the best birth injury law firm to represent your case can be tricky. At The Pagan Law Firm, we have three decades of experience handling various birth injuries and medical negligence cases.

Our experienced New York birth injury attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and help you understand the legal support available to you. We will then craft a comprehensive legal strategy to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation from all liable parties.

Schedule your free initial consultation with one of our proficient New York birth injury attorneys today and get the support you need!

Skip to content