Fetal Acidosis Lawsuit

Even though a fetus does not breathe air, it gets valuable nutrients and oxygenation through the umbilical cord. But, when the fetus doesn’t get enough oxygen, it could cause a condition called fetal acidosis.

Fetal acidosis is a term used to describe high acidity levels in the blood of a baby. The complications of fetal acidosis can be severe, including brain damage and even death.

The causes of fetal acidosis are varied, but the condition is entirely preventable in many cases. When a doctor or medical professional makes a mistake or fails to stop a foreseeable injury from happening, they could be held accountable.

Find out more about fetal acidosis and how a lawsuit can help.

What is Fetal Acidosis?

A fetus relies on the mother to provide blood and exchange gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide. Even a minor disruption of the exchange between the mother and fetus can cause what’s called fetal hypoxia. Hypoxia is a condition in which the body and tissues do not get an adequate supply of oxygen. This, in turn, could lead to acidosis.

The term acidosis means a high level of acid in the body’s fluids and tissues. The level of acidity in the blood is most commonly measured in pH. In adults, the cutoff for high levels of acid is a pH of less than 7.36. However, the cutoff for the fetus is closer to less than 7.00, according to the Annals of Medical & Health Sciences Research1.

Fetal acidosis is further broken down into acute fetal acidosis and chronic fetal acidosis. Acute fetal acidosis is when the disruption of blood flow and function lasts hours while chronic fetal acidosis is when it lasts days or weeks.

There are generally two types of fetal acidosis: respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis.

Fetal Respiratory Acidosis

Respiratory acidosis in the fetus is defined by an elevated level of PC02. This type of acidosis arises when there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. Essentially, the fetus is producing more carbon dioxide than is being eliminated through the umbilical cord.

One of the most common causes is the compression of the umbilical cord.

Metabolic Acidosis at Birth

The second type of acidosis in fetuses and newborns is metabolic.

When the fetus receives an adequate amount of oxygenated blood, it will naturally metabolize something called lactic acid. However, when the blood flow and functions are disrupted, there can be a buildup of lactic acid in the fetal blood and tissue. The lactic acid ultimately increases the levels of acidity in the tissue and blood, leading to metabolic acidosis.

In respiratory acidosis, high acidity levels occur at a pH of less than 7.2 and a PCO2 of 66 or higher in the umbilical artery. In metabolic acidosis, the CO2 is not usually increased.

Although the two are types are separate, The BMJ medical journal points out that the two can mix2.

“While acute fetal acidosis is almost always initially respiratory, this is quickly followed by mixed respiratory and metabolic acidosis if there is no improvement in oxygenation,” the authors of the article on fetal acidosis wrote.

The longer respiratory acidosis occurs, the more likely metabolic acidosis will follow.

Causes of Fetal Acidosis

Fetal acidosis occurs when the fetus is not able to get an adequate oxygen supply. The causes are broken down into three categories.


A disruption in the oxygen supply to the fetus can happen at the placenta. For example, separation of the placenta from the uterine wall disrupts the circulation of gases between the fetus and the mother. It is also believed that inadequate development of the placenta in early pregnancy could cause a reduction in placental transfer between the mother and fetus.


Other causes of fetal acidosis come from the mother. Conditions that cause abnormally low blood pressure or low blood volume, such as hemorrhage, vasovagal attack, or anesthesia with an epidural, can reduce the mother’s blood supply and ultimately the fetus’.

Prolonged uterine contractions, severe respiratory or cardiac disease, and pre-eclampsia can also result in fetal acidosis.


Acidosis can also happen at the fetal level. In many cases, the blood flow from the placenta to the fetus is disrupted when the umbilical cord is compressed during the delivery. For example, the umbilical cord could get wrapped around the baby’s neck or compressed during shoulder dystocia.

Fetal Acidosis Complications & Dangers

The consequences of a child suffering from fetal acidosis depend on the type and severity. The fetus has adapted to survive prolonged labor using compensatory mechanisms. This means there is a reserve of blood supply just in case some disruption of blood flow occurs.

However, when the fetus is exposed to chronic acidosis, there could be more severe complications that follow, such as:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Seizures
  • Motor disorders
  • Brain damage
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Heart problems
  • Developmental delays
  • Blindness
  • Paralysis
  • Death

Fetal Acidosis & Medical Malpractice

In many cases, fetal acidosis is preventable. According to an article in The BMJ, prevention of acute fetal acidosis depends on “good labour ward monitoring and care.” Prevention of chronic fetal acidosis depends on regular growth assessments, ultrasounds, and Doppler fetal monitor to detect the heartbeat.

In essence, good maternal and fetal care from the early stages of pregnancy to delivery is vital in preventing a condition that could cause a lifetime of pain and suffering.

If an obstetrician or nurse fails to provide a reasonable standard of care, they could be held accountable if a child develops fetal acidosis from their negligence. Three things must be present to prove medical malpractice.

First, a violation of a medical standard must have occurred. This means that a doctor negligently acted or failed to act in a reasonable manner. Second, there must have been an injury that was caused by the negligence. Finally, the injury must have resulted in financial or emotional damages.

How a Fetal Acidosis Lawsuit Can Help

A medical professional or institution that causes fetal acidosis from negligence or recklessness can be sued for damages.

If a child survives the initial acidosis, they could be saddled with lifelong afflictions that not only affect the quality of their life but also require costly treatments. A lawsuit can help victims of medical malpractice get the justice they deserve and help pay for past and future medical expenses.

On top of all that, victims and their families may also be eligible for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of wages, disfigurement, and more.

Contact an attorney to learn more about whether you have a case.