Having a baby is one of the most amazing things that can happen. It is also usually a very straightforward thing too, without too many complications. A woman gets pregnant, handles the side effects that sometimes plague her during the pregnancy, and counts down to that amazing day when her little one will join her in the world for the first time. She is excited and follows all the stages of pregnancy with anticipation, reading whatever articles and information she comes across that explain everything about this new life growing inside of her. She also does everything she can to be healthy, rested and positive so that baby can grow in the best possible environment in her womb until said birthday.
But then again, sometimes unexpected things happen, unexpected things like baby stress in utero. Yes, it’s true! Babies in utero do feel stress when they are inside their Moms, and although it sound a little crazy, there are ways we can tell that baby is indeed already stressed. They are medical and scientific ways, as well as the woman just feeling things are not right with her soon-to-be little miracle. It may be a physical pain, some strange sensation, or something else that shows up on the ultrasound that causes her doctor to question if all is well. This is when the woman needs to jump into action and do what she can to help protect her baby and help him/her thrive. But what do these signs look like? Here are 15 signs that baby is already stressed:
15 If Mom Feels Less Movement
Any kind of decrease in fetal movement, (especially if previously the baby was active and kicking up a storm) is cause for concern. As baby grows inside the womb the woman should note their active periods as well as their rest periods. Any kind of change, even subtle, needs to be documented. Counting her baby’s movements is the best way to do this. Once a day, at a time when baby is active she needs to lie on her side and count how many times baby moves inside stopping at 10 movements. She should log how much time each movement takes. If the baby does not move 10 times in 2 hours or a significant change in movements has occurred, this is when she needs to call her doctor. Any kind of change can indicate fetal distress, and especially if accompanied by other conditions, the woman’s medical care practitioner needs to take it seriously.
14 If Mom Is In Pain
Abdominal and back pain with other health concerns are definitely something to be monitored, but even alone they can sometimes mean the baby is in distress in some way. He/she could be experiencing oxygen deprivation, some other form of discomfort, and be pressing down on Mom’s vital organs in a dangerous way, or else simply troubled in some other way. Any kind of pain like this needs to be brought to the doctor’s attention and they will explore further. This most definitely means fetal distress and medical attention are warranted. This could be indicating premature labor and the doctor needs to get involved so that they can help baby stay inside Mom for as long as possible, or if baby has to come out, to decide the safest way possible to do this. With abdominal cramping and back pain sometimes bleeding occurs as well. All of this needs to be reported to the medical care practitioner right away.
13 If Baby's Heartbeat Is Affected
Any kind of decline in the fetal heartbeat almost immediately signals distress of some kind. At this point, doctors will start to monitor the baby’s heartrate to make sure that it returns to a normal level. They will also monitor Mom’s heart rate to make sure hers is strong and healthy to go through labor and birth. A fetal heartbeat measured by a Doppler, is normally between 120-160 beats per minute. Anything higher or lower is cause for concern and will be taken into account when deciding the best and safest way to bring bay into the world. Lots of factors could be causing it, but as long as baby’s heartbeat is detected pretty much right away to be off, steps can be taken to safeguard their entry into the world. Doctors will make the safest suggestion for baby to come into the world, and in most cases they may strongly suggest a cesarean section delivery.
12 If Mom Is Feeling Cramps
Any kind of cramping (with and without bleeding), is cause for concern. Though some cramping is normal during pregnancy as baby is growing and the uterus is expanding, it is still unusual if it is intense. Cramping is also concerning if the woman also has back pain. The doctor needs to rule out anything serious. If a woman has any concerns or worries, as cramping is something worrisome and not a normal occurrence further along in the pregnancy, she need only call her doctor and make an appointment to go in.
She will be given a full checkup, asked a lot of questions, and she and baby will be monitored more closely from then on just to be sure everything is happening as it is supposed to be. This could be due to any number of reasons, such as abnormal presentation of baby in the womb, an infection she may have caught, or perhaps some other issue with her or baby that was not previously detected. That is why keeping a close eye on her own and her baby’s health is so important.
11 If Mom Is Getting High Blood Pressure
Maternal high blood pressure is something very dangerous to the baby and mother’s well-being if it goes undetected. If a doctor knows about it at the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy, the woman can be monitored closely to make sure preeclampsia or gestational diabetes do not follow. Sometimes a woman can have normal blood pressure before pregnancy but then get high blood pressure afterwards. This is called preeclampsia, and it can cause baby to be deprived of oxygen before being born due to placental problems. There is also the case of placental problems themselves causing high blood pressure in the women and finally high blood pressure results in constriction in the blood vessels which will cause a decrease in the blood flow to the baby.
This also affects the placenta which carries all the nourishment to baby. All of this affects the oxygen that baby receives and if there is a decreased flow of oxygen to baby this obviously causes stress to baby and later problems. Doctors at this point work closely with mothers and their babies to try and control mother’s blood pressure to eliminate problems.
10 If Baby Is In An Abnormal Position
Sometimes the way a baby is lying in the womb also suggests a problem. One could see this on an ultrasound. Baby could be breech or in some other weird position which compromises blood flow. This happens if baby’s head or shoulder is lodged against a woman’s pubic bone. If the woman notices any change in fetal activity or movement, she will probably be reminded to sleep on her left side in the second and third trimesters. This way it will help keep the blood flowing between her and baby. Lying on her back can compress a major vein that carries blood back to the heart.
She should never hesitate to call her doctor if she notices any change in baby’s movement pattern. Her doctor will most likely put her on a fetal monitor to properly measure baby’s heart. The woman may also be given oxygen or extra fluids to help increase circulation and blood flow to her baby which would stabilize the baby’ heart. On an ultrasound, however, the doctor will be able to tell just what is risky and what is not and will be able to let the woman know how her pregnancy is going.
9 If Mom Is Gaining More Weight
Weight gain (and sometime loss) both indicate problems and prenatal tests need to be performed. A weight gain of 20-40 pounds is normal during pregnancy. Anything over or under that could signal a problem, and the sooner a physician knows, the sooner prenatal tests can be performed. Excessive weight gain can indicate an abnormally large baby which will mean a complicated delivery for the mother-to-be. With any complications in labor and birth, baby could end up with all kinds of lifelong physical and intellectual health problems.
The sooner a doctor knows what the health of the baby is, the sooner he/she can make a decision for the safety and well-being of the mother and baby to deliver in the quickest way possible, most likely a c-section. This would mean a quick delivery where a larger than normal baby who has a condition called macrosomia, will not run into any complications coming out of its mother and come to any harm him/herself.
8 If Mom Is Feeling Sick
Maternal illness is usually a sign that baby is stressed. Illness can range from severe illness, to different kinds of cramping, or to other viruses or illnesses that affect and are affected by the baby inside. Often, these illnesses or conditions are precipitated by an issue with baby’ development in utero. Baby can be cramped, in an odd position, or have some sort of physical or other issue which affects Mom. Sometimes this is not known until much later. However, this is where Mom needs to be able to detect if something feels “off.” She knows her body well, and if all of a sudden she is not feeling well, she needs to tell her medical team so they could make sure that she and baby are doing fine. They can run tests, and with her input, make sure that all is well with baby and that the present activity is normal.
7 If Mom Is Feeling Pressure
Sometimes if a woman lies or sits in a position for too long that puts pressure on baby inside her body, the baby could suffer some distress. If she notices any kind of activity like kicking downward, bleeding or spotting, dizziness, or any kind of malaise on her part, or change in baby’s movement, it is important she contact her medical team right away. She could also try lying on her left side as this sends more blood supply and oxygen baby’s way. It can make a difference to baby’s activity level. For example, if baby has slowed down or stopped kicking, he/she may start up again. It’s hard to know if one is sitting or standing correctly sometimes, especially if it is a first pregnancy or a woman is carrying differently. But if she goes for regular prenatal screenings doctors will be able to detect anything wrong, and if the woman trusts her intuition and gets to know her body and baby inside, this will also make a difference.
6 If Mom Is Leaking Amniotic Fluid
Any kind of amniotic fluid leakage prior to contractions starting, is something a woman needs to take seriously. This could mean the baby is in distress and this happened due to a problem. She needs to get herself into the hospital where further testing can be done. Even if the amniotic fluid breaks before contractions which does sometimes happen, she also needs to get herself to the hospital. If the amniotic fluid is clear, chances are that all is well.
However, if the woman notices anything green or brown in the amniotic fluid this is probably meconium or stool that could have gotten in the liquid. This happens when baby is in distress. Meconium may be produced when they are stressed and this means that medical staff have to do whatever they can to make sure baby is born soon and safely. Often, this means an emergency c-section to ensure that baby is out of the womb as soon as possible and care can be given outside to make sure they thrive to the best of their ability.
5 If The Placenta Separates
This is a condition where the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus while baby is still inside. This is very dangerous as it deprives baby of oxygen, nutrients, and can cause severe bleeding to Mom and baby. With placental abruption, there is also a risk that baby will have growth problems, be born prematurely, or result in a stillbirth. This condition happens in 1 in every 150 pregnancies, and can happen any time after the 20 week mark.
Women who are most at risk are those who have experienced, preeclampsia, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or hypertension or any other kind of health issues, or women who are older or who have had many babies. Options women are given (depending on the symptoms and how close they are to their due date), are to remain in hospital under observation, a scheduled c-section to get baby out as soon as possible, or the possibility to still go into labor naturally but keeping the window open for changes should they be necessary.
4 If Mom Is Bleeding
Vaginal bleeding is one of those scary side effects that a woman worries about. It is very common to experience this early in pregnancy, and sometimes even mid to late pregnancy. It does not always means something is wrong. Often times, baby and Mom end up being just fine. However, there are times when it does indicate that baby is stressed inside. Vaginal bleeding could mean that there is placenta previa and vasa previa. Plancentia previa is basically a low lying placenta which is near a woman’s uterus next to her cervix. If a woman has placenta previa earlier in her pregnancy, it does not affect her and baby. It is only if it happens later in pregnancy, that it could cause bleeding and may mean the woman has to deliver her baby earlier.
If the placenta previa happens at the time of delivery, she will need to have a cesarean section delivery. In vasa previa, another rare condition, the baby’s blood vessels are in close proximity to the inner cervical which is close to the woman’s cervix. When the woman goes into labor and water breaks, it could cause damage to the weak membranes and blood vessels to burst causing bleeding, and ending in fetal death. What could save baby is if an emergency c-section is performed.
3 If Baby's Shoulder Gets Stuck
Shoulder dystocia is when one of baby’s shoulders gets stuck coming out of the birth canal and they need extra help being born. This complication sometimes happens during the second stage of labor and means that baby is in distress. Causes for this happening are a bigger than average baby (macrosomia), if the woman’s baby has not moved into the proper position for birth, and if that positions restricts room to the woman in her pelvis.
Often times there is not much she can do to prevent shoulder dystopia. She just needs to be able to be flexible and do whatever her caregiver will tell her to do to get baby out safely. Some experts have said kneeling on all fours to help the birth, while others have said that this does not make a difference. Regardless of whether she is giving birth in a hospital or birth center, she needs to make sure that at the first sign of difficulties, her doctor or midwife take whatever precautions they need to make sure that baby is born safely and quickly.
2 If Baby Is Breech
When a baby is in breech position, this can also be indicating a problem such as fetal distress. A breech presentation is one in which the baby is poised to come out feet first. Doctors do not always know how a baby ends up being in breech positions. Some speculation is if baby has uterine abnormalities. If the uterus is not shaped like an upside down pear as it is supposed to be, and is misshapen this can cause problems. A differently shaped uterus can be detected during medical exams with one’s practitioner.
Abnormalities would be present from birth but sometimes are due to fibroids, a previous difficult birth can be another problem. If the placenta is low-lying this can also cause problems because baby will not have room to flip around. Finally, sometimes there is not enough or too much amniotic fluid which also causes complications with baby’s nervous and muscoskeletal systems.
1 If Water Breaks Too Early
If the water breaks prematurely, meaning before contractions start and before the 37th week, this could be great cause for concern. Particularly if there is meconium, blood or liquid is not clear, the woman and her team need to be on alert for any possible complications. The baby could have been having a difficult time in utero and now is taking the best way out it knows, premature labor. Doctors need to be prepared to move fast in getting baby out quickly for Mom’s and baby’s protection.
At this point, baby needs to come out to avoid any infection by staying in utero without any amniotic fluid present. Baby could have broke through water due to any kind of health issues on their part, their mother’s, or due to inter-uterine exams. It could also simply be a fluke. Once it happens, the most important thing is ensuring baby is healthy and has a safe delivery into the world.