Fetal intrauterine growth restriction diagnosis, treatment, and medical malpractice

New parents should absolutely be proud of their infants. One of my favorite things on Facebook is looking at posts from parents with baby photos. Sometimes there’s an editorial comment from the parents about how their baby is breaking the curve.

Throughout rearing our children, we hear from pediatricians about how they’re developing in terms of height and weight. Very early on, pediatricians chart out an expected growth curve to predict how tall our children will grow—and to draw attention to any problem that may need medical attention all the way that’s pushing them off the curve.

Less talked about, though, are some important growth curves that are charted out during the first trimester of pregnancy. Medical research has led to publication of charts that identify the measurements and weights at different points along the pregnancy, called gestational age. One of the responsibilities of obstetricians (OB/GYNs) during pregnancy is to use ultrasound to take and document measurements of the unborn baby (fetus) at regular intervals.

This is a good place to emphasize that this is just one of myriad reasons of why it’s important for expectant moms to seek and receive regular prenatal care, as recommended by her provider. The regular assessment and re-assessment of fetal growth allows obstetricians to identify potential disorders that may require medical attention to facilitate the safe delivery of a healthy baby.

One of these prenatal medical conditions is fetal growth restriction (FGR), which is also called intrauterine growth restriction (IGR). As the name suggests, IGR is a medical disorder where the unborn baby has an abnormally slow growth rate. To diagnose FGR or IGR, an OB/GYN looks for the unborn baby’s estimated weight to be at or below the 10% percentile (this means that 90%+ of unborn babies of the same gestational age would weigh more).

In addition to gestational measurements, OB/GYNs should consider other risk factors for FGR/IGR, such as pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure (maternal hypertension), diabetes, malnutrition during pregnancy, and smoking or drug abuse.

Undiagnosed, untreated intrauterine or fetal growth restriction can lead to a parade of horrible outcomes including stillbirth, low birth weight, brain injury from hypoxic-ischemic conditions (inadequate oxygen), and meconium aspiration (when the unborn baby releases and breathes in stool or feces, while still in the mom’s uterus).

The standard of care requires OB/GYN physicians to frequently monitor pregnant moms and their babies who’ve been diagnosed with fetal/intrauterine growth restriction. This will include more frequent prenatal visits and ultrasound examinations and instructions for the mother to keep close track of the fetal movement pattern. In some cases, the obstetrician may order administration of corticosteroid medications, consult with a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist, and perform an early (pre-term) or emergency cesarean (C-Section) delivery.

If your baby has been seriously injured by misdiagnosis or mismanagement of fetal/intrauterine growth restriction in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.