Birth Definitions

Fetal Distress Definition


Fetal distress is a term used in the pregnancy and birthing industry to describe a fetus that is experiencing medical problems. This can include things like a heart rate that is too low, not enough oxygen in the blood, or other signs that the fetus is not thriving. Fetal distress can be a sign of a number of different conditions, some of which are serious and can lead to complications during birth or even stillbirth.

Risk Factors and Disambiguation

There are several risk factors associated with fetal distress. These include things like maternal age (older mothers are more likely to have babies with medical problems), smoking during pregnancy, obesity, intrauterine growth retardation, oligohydramnios, fetal prematurity or postmaturity, chorioamnionitis, diabetes, preeclampsia or eclampsia and chronic hypertension

If you are pregnant and have any of these risk factors, it is important to discuss them with your doctor so that they can monitor you and your baby closely.

There are some terms that are often used interchangeably with fetal distress, but there are important distinctions between them. For example, “fetal distress” specifically refers to the fetus itself while “maternal distress” refers to the mother. Additionally, “obstetric complications” refer to any problems that arise during pregnancy or childbirth, while “neonatal complications” refer specifically to problems that occur after birth.

Other Related Terms

Some terms that are closely associated with fetal distress include:

  • Hypoxia: This term refers to when the body tissues do not have enough oxygen. Hypoxia can be caused by things like anemia or respiratory problems.
  • Anemia: This condition occurs when there is not enough iron in the blood. Anemia can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.
  • Respiratory distress: This term refers to difficulty breathing. This can be caused by things like pneumonia or bronchiolitis.

This image shows how often the term ‘Fetal Distress’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:

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