SafeMotherhood
safe motherhood

YOUR BABY'S EXPERIENCE OF BIRTH

DISTRESS IN LABOUR

When your baby becomes distressed during labour, it means that he is not getting enough oxygen. Alterations in his heartbeat may indicate that he is finding labour difficult to cope with.

There could be various reasons for this:

• There have been problems during the pregnancy and he was weak before labour began
• The labour has been very long or very intense
• The cord is wrapped tightly round his neck
• He is too large to get through your pelvis
• You have been bleeding during labour
• You have severe pre-eclampsia.

Your midwife will be monitoring your baby's heartbeat. If she thinks your baby is in distress, she will ask you to:

• change your position, especially if you have been lying on your back as this reduces the amount of oxygen getting to your baby. She might ask you to lie on your left-hand side, or to kneel or stand up.
•If changing position doesn't help, your midwife will call a doctor for a second opinion. The doctor might take a sample of blood from your baby's scalp to check how much oxygen is in his circulation. (To do this, she will insert a small tube into your vagina and pass a scalpel along it to nick your baby's scalp.) The results will be discussed with you, and various courses of action might be suggested:
• If you are in the second stage of labour (the pushing stage), your doctor might want to do a forceps or ventouse delivery to help your baby be born quickly.
• If your baby's condition is thought to be critical, or you are in the first stage of labour (the dilating stage) you will be offered an emergency caesarean section.

Remember that your baby is less likely to become distressed if you keep mobile during labour. So try a variety of upright positions. Having one or two special people to support you has also been shown to reduce the likelihood that your baby will become distressed, presumably because you are less likely to become distressed.