Young, pregnant, Asian woman looking worriedly at her stomach

Fetal Distress

Fetal distress refers to any sign that a baby is not well during pregnancy or labor. 

When medical professionals fail to detect and act upon signs of fetal distress, they can be held liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

The birth injury lawyers at Younker Hyde Macfarlane handle complex fetal distress cases that other Utah firms cannot. 

Our Lawyers Are Multilingual


The attorneys at our firm have handled more medical malpractice cases than any other in Utah. To better serve families, our team includes lawyers who speak Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Portuguese.

What Is Fetal Distress?

Fetal distress describes signs a fetus is unwell during late pregnancy or labor, such as changes in movement or heart rate. 

When a mother and her fetus are not properly monitored during labor, fetal distress can go unrecognized and therefore untreated (or treated only after a dangerous amount of time has passed).

A monitor on the mother's abdomen allows doctors and nurses to watch her contractions and the baby's heart rate simultaneously. If a fetus becomes distressed during labor and an emergency Cesarean section (C-section) or other appropriate procedure is not performed quickly enough, serious brain injury may result. 

We Help Families Across America

When shoulder dystocia, uterine rupture, and other complications occur during childbirth, health care professionals must act quickly and carefully to ensure the safety of the mother and child.  If your baby sustained a birth injury after showing signs of fetal distress, you may be entitled to compensation.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Younker Hyde Macfarlane in Utah represent families all over the country who have been affected by fetal distress. Give us a call or write to our attorneys if you believe negligence or malpractice is to blame for your child's birth injury.

We offer 100% free consultations and work on a contingency basis. This means we do not charge a single cent upfront. The only way our birth injury lawyers get paid is by receiving a percentage of any medical malpractice verdict or settlement we secure. 


YHM Attorneys

5-Star Reviews From Utah Patients


Jan Wright

Salt Lake City, UT


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Our family feels very blessed to have found Younker Hyde MacFarlane to have represented us and to get justice for our precious Mother... Our family finally feels like we have closure and can move forward in a positive way knowing we got acknowledgement of wrongdoing, even if it was in a monetary settlement. We can’t thank you all enough for everything you did for us, and we will always be grateful for your amazing team

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Joani Taylor

Salt Lake City, UT


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Wrongful death left me navigating the most difficult time of life I will likely experience. Yonker, Hyde, Macfarlane made it bearable. The process of holding doctors accountable can be a lengthy and painful process. It requires you to stay in a pattern of grief until it's over. The people at YHF were compassionate, thorough and timely. John MacFarlane was my attorney. He was honest, caring and easy to talk to, listened well and went the extra mile. By the time it was over I felt like I had not only gained the accountability I was deserved, I also felt like my team at YHM was family.

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Signs of Fetal Distress

Our birth injury lawyers have spent decades winning medical malpractice cases. We can detect extremely subtle signs of fetal distress. Fetal distress can occur in the healthiest, most "normal" pregnancies, and does not always present obvious signs or symptoms. However, the symptoms most commonly attributed to fetal distress include:

  • Invariability in the fetal heart rate  
  • Increased or decreased fetal heart rate  
  • Late decelerations of the fetal heart rate  
  • A decrease in the movement felt by the mother  
  • Presentation of meconium (baby's first stool) in the amniotic fluid  
  • Fetal metabolic or lactic acidosis (detected via tests taken during labor)


Man performing surgery

Causes of Fetal Distress

Fetal distress refers to a variety of problems that can occur before or during childbirth. These problems have the potential to cause severe and even fatal complications for the mother and her infant. Fetal distress can be caused by:

  • Uterine rupture
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Placental abruption
  • Prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Abnormal position of the fetus
  • Obstetric cholestasis (liver disorder)
  • Breathing problems or lack of oxygen

Fetal Distress Involves Devastating Risks

Fetal distress can usually be treated as long as medical professionals follow the standard of care, and act swiftly and accurately. If any issue with the fetus is not identified and resolved quickly, malpractice may be at play. Potential birth injuries that can occur as a result of fetal distress include:

  • Infant hypoxia (caused by the deprivation of oxygen to the infant's brain)
  • Cerebral palsy (a condition that causes physical disability and inhibits body movement)
  • Stillbirth
  • Brain damage
  • Organ failure

We Have Won Many Significant Cases

Most major cases won by our Utah attorneys are subject to confidentiality agreements. That being said, there are some that we are permitted to highlight to showcase a small fraction of our successes. 

$5 Million Verdict

Our attorneys won a jury trial for grieving children whose mother passed away after doctors improperly withdrew life-sustaining care.

$2.94 Million Verdict

Our lawyers offered a $1 million settlement to a medical clinic that negligently caused a wrongful death. They rejected the offer, so we took them to court and emerged with a $2.94 million award.

$1.83 Million Verdict

A local Utah man passed away after an assisted-living facility failed to properly take care of his pressure sores. We took on a wrongful death case for his surviving wife and won $1.83 million in court. 

$750k Settlement

Our sterling reputation and courtroom acumen leads some defendants to settle instead of facing us at trial. For example, we secured a $750,000 medical malpractice settlement without filing a single document.

Request Proven Birth Injury Lawyers

In handling complex birth injury cases for decades, our firm has developed a first-rate reputation in Utah and beyond. In fact, approximately three-quarters of our clients arrive at our Salt Lake City medical malpractice office as referrals. Other firms send complex cases to us because we have proven time and again that we can win them.

If you did not undergo a timely C-section, or if your child suffered any other form of birth injury due to missed signs of fetal distress, reach out to us.


YHM Law Firm

More 5-Star Utah Reviews


Gilbert Cisneros

Salt Lake City, UT


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Younker Hyde Macfarlane made it easier to navigate a difficult time in my life. They were professional and attentive to any questions that I had. McKay Corbett was the attorney that I primarily worked with. He explained things in a way that I could easily understand and was very personable. Younker Hyde Macfarlane made me feel like family and that I was being taken care of.

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Cathy Kelly

Salt Lake City, UT


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Our experience with Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC was easy & stress-free... The people we worked with, Brittney Bohne, McKay Corbett, & John MacFarlane were very professional & explained everything from start to finish. This team did an outstanding job of representing our interests. I would not hesitate to recommend this law firm to handle any legal problems, questions, lawsuits, etc. John MacFarlane was very good at obtaining a fair & equitable settlement on our behalf.

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Economic Damages We Can Seek

Our attorneys can seek economic damages that compensate you for direct monetary losses caused by the missed fetal distress. Economic damages can include compensation for:

Existing Medical Bills

Projected Medical Expenses

Price of Prescription Medications

Costs of Required Medical Equipment

Time Parents Had to Spend Away From Work

Utah No Longer Caps

Non-Economic Damages
in Wrongful Death Cases

Non-economic damages refer to subjective, non-monetary losses that include pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost companionship, and lost enjoyment of life.

Utah used to limit the non-economic damages available to a plaintiff in a wrongful death case. In 2021, the Utah supreme court ruled that this limit was unconstitutional. This means our attorneys are now able to seek a greater amount of compensation than was previously obtainable in a birth injury wrongful death case.

Birth Injury Statute of Limitations Laws Explained by Our Birth Injury Lawyer

In this short video, Norman Younker, of counsel, explains more about these lawsuits and describes the situations in which your statute of limitations may be shorter than usual.

Don't Hesitate

Waiting to file suit carries risks beyond missing your deadline. Allowing our birth injury attorneys to start now lets us collect evidence while it is still fresh. It also lets you receive the compensation you deserve sooner, in the event of a successful case. Call 801-335-6467 or write to request your free consultation.

Years of Stellar Reviews From Utah Clients


Alexa Leal

Salt Lake City, UT


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Can't recommend these guys enough! They were so professional and made my family feel taken care of.

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Sonya Ravitch

Salt Lake City, UT


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John Mcfarlane believes in fighting for what is right. I can’t thank this firm enough for the amazing work they’ve done... Amazing, warm and professional team that I highly recommend!

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Analyzing the Fetal Monitoring Strip

The most important piece of evidence in a fetal distress case is the fetal monitoring strip, a readout from devices that measure fetal heart rate and contraction frequency. This critically-important strip should be monitored regularly by nurses and physicians to identify fetal distress symptoms. 

Signs of fetal distress should lead to an urgent C-section delivery if the baby starts to struggle. The fetal monitoring strip should also dictate the timing of the delivery. Our birth injury attorneys, alongside their in-house medical team and nationwide network of medical experts, conduct in-depth analyses of fetal monitoring strip records to determine exactly when medical malpractice occurred. 

image of a fetal hearth deceleration strip

Your Child's Cerebral Palsy May Have Been Caused by Fetal Distress

Cerebral palsy can be the result of two different types of brain damage. While not always preventable, it is often the result of medical malpractice. Unfortunately, the cause of cerebral palsy is often not apparent. Its murky origin leads some families to simply accept their child’s condition instead of seeking compensation in a fetal distress lawsuit. 

Our attorneys are well-versed in proving the cause of cerebral palsy. Broadly speaking, cerebral palsy disorders can be caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, too much pressure on the brain, and damage to the brain. We can investigate actions that led to these issues such as failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord, failure to detect a brain bleed, failure to recognize seizures, and failure to detect a lack of oxygen.

Early Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Early treatment of cerebral palsy can help a child better reach their full potential. Pursuing a lawsuit against the medical professionals who missed signs of fetal distress can help you receive compensation that makes accessing treatment easier. A child younger than 6 months may have cerebral palsy if they:

Feel Stiff or Alternatively Feel Floppy

Their Legs Stiffly Cross or Scissor When You Pick Them Up

Head Lags When You Pick Them Up From Laying on Their Back

Failure to Diagnose Preeclampsia Can Cause Fetal Distress

Not all causes of fetal distress are missed during delivery. Some appear during pregnancy and are ignored by medical professionals. One such cause is the hypertensive disorder known as preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure that is often accompanied by the appearance of protein in the mother's urine. These can cause various potentially lethal problems for the mother, like seizure, stroke, and organ failure, as well as birth injury for the child. 

If you had two abnormally high blood pressure readings during a prenatal appointment, your doctor should have conducted various tests to check for preeclampsia. Failing to conduct these could make them liable in a lawsuit. 

Some women are accurately diagnosed for preeclampsia at a prenatal appointment, but do not receive proper preeclampsia care from doctors and nurses during delivery. Failure to properly manage preeclampsia, whether this failure results in harm to the mother or child, can be a cause of action in a fetal distress lawsuit.

You Received a Settlement Offer Do You Really Need a Lawyer?


Yes, you still need a lawyer. Insurance companies are not on your side. When the medical professionals they represent fail to act upon fetal distress, the insurance company bears a financial cost. The settlement they offer almost certainly does not quantify the totality of economic and noneconomic losses suffered by you, your child, and your family. Our attorneys are here to fight for the maximum compensation possible. 

Utah Parents Put Trust In Us


Matt Cook

Salt Lake City, UT


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My family had the pleasure of working with this firm following a tragic event. The firm was very good about answering our questions and explaining the process. Attorneys John Macfarlane and Mckay Corbett were empathetic and fought hard for our case. The paralegal Jill Bedford was also a true joy to work with. I recommend this firm to anyone who needs attorneys who will fight for your case like it’s their own family.

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Tom Henderson

Salt Lake City, UT


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This is the first time I have found it necessary to use a law firm, I was apprehensive because of all the stories I have heard about other law firms. When I took my wife’s wrongful death evidence, they were completely honest snd forthcoming, keeping me involved the complete time... they did an excellent job and basically did everything they said they would do. Their follow through and follow up has been the best. Thank you for your help through one of the toughest things I have ever gone through

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Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC

Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC

At Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC, our attorneys have decades of combined experience in complex cases. We represent clients in all types of personal injury cases, with a special focus on medical malpractice claims. Our firm is associated with the following professional organizations:

  • Utah Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
  • Salt Lake County Bar Association
  • American Trial Lawyers Association

To schedule an appointment, please contact us online or call (801) 335-6467.

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"They were extremely knowledgeable, extremely helpful experts. The team helped me with all aspects of my case, including medical and financial, and understood that it affected more than me but also my family."

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