Fetal acidosis (antenatal period)

Fetal Acidosis occurs when the chemistry of an infant’s body, specifically blood plasma, becomes too acidic, or falls below a 7.35 on the Ph scale. Fetal Acidosis is a complication often associated with fetal hypoxia and the loss of oxygen during childbirth. This acidity in body chemistry can cause complications including severe and permanent brain damage, and death.

What Causes Fetal Acidosis?

The fetus does not use its lungs for ventilation. Rather, the placenta facilitates the gas exchange between mother and baby. A disruption in placental transfer involving uterine blood supply and fetal gas transport can cause fetal hypoxia (an inadequate supply of oxygen received to the body’s tissues), and may lead to acidosis. This condition will generally occur when a fetus lacks sufficient oxygen for a period of time during or immediately following delivery. Prolonged, stressful labor, together with low oxygen levels and abnormal heart rate in the fetus, are possible signs of Fetal Acidosis. Although a fetus naturally can endure a brief shortage of oxygen, which may occur during contractions, a tiring fetus lacks the necessary defenses to withstand this event.

How is Fetal Acidosis Treated?

Preventable measures to avoid Fetal Acidosis include providing the mother with an adequate oxygen supply throughout labor and delivery. This will help to ensure the baby’s safety. Fetal monitoring devices are used during labor to track the baby’s oxygen level and heart rate, and can assist in detecting fetal distress. Electronic fetal monitoring provides information on the status of the fetus in relation to the frequency and duration of contractions. Close examination of the data provided will alert medical professionals to the baby’s tolerance to the conditions of labor. A blood sample may also be taken from the baby’s scalp during labor to test for elevated lactate levels, which if present, may indicate Fetal Acidosis. Upon discovery of Fetal Acidosis, or any other fetal distress, immediate action must be taken by medical professionals to prevent harm to the baby.

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