It's a c-section!

A panicked mother's guide to the almighty cesarean

Fetal Distress

The last thing an expectant mother wants to think about is her baby in distress. That is precisely why we go to doctors we trust to have the skills to handle any problem. I want to emphasize again that as much as a problem with your delivery may feel like the end of the world, remain as calm as possible (yes, I do understand what a ridiculous proposition that is) and take comfort in the fact that your very capable doctor has it under control. That said, I know that in crisis situations, knowledge of what is happening allows me to feel some measure of control, so if you feel the same, here is some information you can equip yourself with in the highly unlikely case your baby does develop complications.

Heart Rate

photo of heart monitor screen

Your doctor will check the baby’s heart rate intermittently during labor with a handheld ultrasound machine. For a full-term baby, the normal range is 110-160 beats per minute. If your baby’s heartbeat is above or below that range for an extended period of time, he is in distress. Your doctor may try a few techniques to ease the distress, such as turning you on your left side to allow better blood flow to the placenta or temporarily stopping your medications. If these measures to not bring the heart rate back within range, your doctor will likely suggest an emergency c-section.

Oxygen Level

If your doctor suspects your baby is in distress, she may test his oxygen level. This is done by inserting a metal tube into your cervix and resting it against the baby’s head. The doctor will then swab the baby’s head with anesthetic and prick his scalp with a thin needle. When a drop of blood forms, the doctor will collect it and test the blood’s oxygen level. If the oxygen level is too low, she may increase the oxygen in your facemask. Turning on your left side to increase blood flow may also help in this case, as your baby is receiving oxygen from your blood. As with the low heart rate, failure to bring the oxygen level back up to normal will probably necessitate a c-section.