Acidosis

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

Fetal acidosis is a medical term that refers to high amounts of acid levels in an unborn baby’s blood. This typically occurs when a child is deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time during or after birth. Specifically, when a child’s oxygen levels are compromised, it can cause his or her blood to become too acidic, or, fall below 7.35 on the pH scale.

At times, children sustain serious and life threatening birth injuries or even die as a result of doctors and medical practitioners failing to diagnose acidosis. If your child suffered trauma due to this condition during labor, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 for a free consultation.

What are the causes of fetal acidosis?

Insufficient oxygen may result in cell death and irreversible brain damage. Accordingly, there are a number of complications that can cause acidosis, such as:

  • Umbilical cord compression – This typically occurs during labor and results from the positioning of the baby in relation to the umbilical cord. If the cord becomes compromised, whether through compression or being twisted, it can cut off vital nutrients and oxygen to an unborn child, leading to acidosis and other serious complications.
  • An umbilical cord that is wrapped around a baby’s neck – If the umbilical cord wraps around a child’s neck, whether during pregnancy, labor and/or delivery, it can cut off his or her oxygen supply, resulting in acidosis and other serious complications.
  • Positioning of the child in the womb – A difficult labor and delivery may result in a child becoming lodged in the birth canal or unable to progress from the womb. This can also lead to acidosis and potential brain damage if medical attention is not immediately sought.
  • Shoulder dystocia – This is a condition where a child’s shoulders become lodged underneath its mother’s pubic bone, which may cause a delay in delivery due to the obstruction and ultimately, a lack of fetal oxygen/acidosis.
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion – Also known as CPD, this condition occurs when a child’s head is too large to enter or pass through the birth canal, resulting in potential complications such as acidosis and brain damage.
  • Macrosomia – This is a condition where a child is overly large, resulting in the potential for him or her to become lodged in the birth canal. Should a vaginal obstruction occur, a child may sustain prolonged periods of little to no oxygen, resulting in acidosis and other life threatening conditions.
  • Obstructed delivery – This can occur due to a number of factors, including a macrosomia child, an overly tired mother, and prolonged labor. Regardless of the cause, these can all lead to acidosis, brain damage and sometimes death.

What are the signs and symptoms of fetal acidosis?

When a child is suffering from acidosis during labor and/or delivery, the following are the most common signs and symptoms of the condition:

  • Stress and Pain – Acidosis may intensify painful and/or stressful labor.
  • A compromised oxygen supply
  • Fetal distress – Stress causing abnormal heart rhythms as shown on an electronic fetal monitor.
  • Little or no fetal movement
  • Respiratory distress
  • Difficulty with oral motor functioning - difficulty eating, swallowing, latching onto the breast, and sucking after birth.
  • Difficulty in arousing from sleep
  • Low blood/cord pH
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • A low Apgar score – Immediately after a child is delivered, a nurse will perform a number of tests that detect responses in newborn infants. These tests may indicate that a child is suffering from acidosis.
  • Meconium aspiration – This typically occurs when babies experience fetal distress and pass their first stool while still in the womb, and subsequently inhale the contents into the lungs. This can greatly interfere with a child’s oxygen levels, potentially leading to brain damage and other serious complications.
  • Death

What are the complications associated with fetal acidosis?

How is acidosis diagnosed?

  • Physical exam
  • Fetal blood tests
  • Ultrasound
  • Electronic fetal monitoring

How is acidosis treated?

If a child is experiencing fetal distress caused by acidosis, it is important for a medical professional to act immediately. One way in which the condition can be treated is through administering oxygen to a mother and increasing her intravenous fluids.

Moreover, doctors typically take measures to treat a child with acidosis by ordering that he or she be delivered as soon as possible to prevent brain damage and other complications associated with acidosis. If a child sustained brain damage associated with acidosis or a lack of fetal oxygen, he or she may require prolonged periods of physical rehabilitation and even surgery, depending upon the severity of the case.

Fetal acidosis and medical malpractice

The complications associated with acidosis are caused by a multitude of different factors. However, many involve the following cases of medical negligence:

  • Failure to conduct medical tests necessary to diagnose and treat acidosis.
  • Faulty or improperly used fetal monitoring equipment to determine whether a child is suffering from fetal distress.
  • Failure to diagnose and treat pregnancy, labor and delivery complications that can result in a lack of oxygen.
  • Miscalculation of a baby’s size, leading to delivery complications, including acidosis and brain damage.
  • Failure to administer oxygen to a newborn and/or a mother in distress.
  • Failure to properly address an obstructed vaginal delivery.
  • Delayed decision to perform a Cesarean section.

If you are struggling to raise a child who suffered from birth injuries due to negligent treatment of acidosis or another condition, Stern Law, PLLC is prepared to provide assistance. Please call (800)462-5772 for a free evaluation of your case.