Psychology Wiki
Fetal distress
ICD-10 O68
ICD-9 768.2-768.4
OMIM [1]
DiseasesDB 4882
MedlinePlus [2]
eMedicine /
MeSH {{{MeshNumber}}}

In medicine (obstetrics), fetal distress is an obstetrical complication that is the presence of signs in a pregnant woman[1]—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:

  • Decreased movement felt by the mother
  • Meconium in the amniotic fluid
  • Cardiotocography signs
  • Biochemical signs, assessed by collecting a small sample of baby's blood from a scalp prick through the open cervix in labour

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.

See also[]