Birth Injury Litigation Glossary

Child birthOur law firm handles birth injury cases in Maryland and throughout the United States. We spend a lot of time reading through medical records in birth injury claims. Whether you are a parent or a lawyer trying to understand the mother and child's medical records, you will see quickly this area of medicine has its own argot. Below are some (mostly) easy to understand explanation of common terms our lawyers see in birth injury litigation.

Alkalosis - abnormal lack of hydrogen ion in the tissue. This leads to a lower PH blood level.

Apgar - first test after childbirth to evaluate the baby's health. Apgar is a rating system on a scale of one to ten that evaluates: (1) skin color; (2) heart rate; (3) reflexes; (4) muscle tone; and (5) breathing.

Anoxia - lack of oxygen within the tissues

Asphyxia - simultaneous occurrence of too much carbon dioxide in the blood and too little oxygen in the blood. A child with birth asphyxia will typically have a lower than optimal PH blood levels at birth and low Apgar case.

Beat-to-beat-variability

Bradycardia - when the heart rate is below 100 bpm for a fetus (term and post-term) or less than 120 bpm (pre-term)

Breech birth - baby is delivered bottom first instead of head first. There are three types of breech births: (1) Frank - buttocks down but legs are stretched up to the head; (2) complete - the buttocks are down and the baby's legs are folded in front of the body; and (3) incomplete - one or both legs down so that the feet fall into the birthing canal during delivery.

Cardiotocography - the monitoring of the fetal heart rate and uterine activity during the birthing processes. Also spelled cardiotokography by some health care providers

Cephalic presentation - when the fetus presents head first.

Cerebral palsy - A birth injury caused by oxygen deprivation during childbirth that typically results in limited muscle movement and coordination.

Chorioamnionitis - an infection of the placenta and amniotic fluid.

Cycle - heart rate fluctuation above, through, and back to the average baseline. Also called oscillation, complex, or sine wave.

Deceleration - decrease in the fetal heart rate below the fetal baseline heart rate.

EDD - expected date of delivery

Effacement - shortening or thinning of the cervical canal which typically occurs during the beginning of dilation.

Episodic changes - accelerations or decelerations of the fetal heart rate that are not connected to uterine activity

Fetal distress - another term used in the medical records that means multiple thing to different obstetricians. In general, fetal distress suggest that the baby is not getting the oxygen it needs and that brain damage can be the result if the distress is not alleviated. It's a usually marked with deteriorating fetal heart rate that might include late or prolonged decelerations, rising baseline, decreasing variability, or bradycardia.

Fetal lie - relationship between the fetal body to the mother's body

Fetal scalp blood sampling - collection of blood from fetal scalp to analyze PH blood levels

Fetal monitor tracings (TMT) - the record of the fetus' heartrate

Gestation - time from conception to birth

Gestational hypertension - higher blood pressure while pregnant that is above 140/90

Gravida (G) - mother's number of pregnancies

Hypoxemia - low blood oxygen levels

Hypoxia - lack of oxygen. This deprivation of oxygen to the tissues can happen on a number of different bases, but it is not enough oxygen is getting to the cells that need it. If the child is anoxic, that means there's no oxygen. Hypoxic means that there's a diminished amount of oxygen.

Hypoxic-ischemic - the combination of hypoxia and ischemia where you have diminished amounts of blood flow and diminished amounts of oxygen.

Intrapartum - another way of saying labor and delivery.

Life care plan - involves data collection, resource development and planning strategies within an interdisciplinary rehabilitation environment. It determines the needs of catastrophically injured individuals and projects the costs of needed services, treatment and equipment over the individual's life-span

Ischemia - poor circulation or perfusion or inadequate blood flow.

Long-Term Variability (LTV) - fluctuation range of the heartbeat above and below the baseline. LVT is calculated in one-minute intervals.

Membranes - the sac that surrounds and protects the fetus. There are two chorioamniotic membranes called the amnion and chorion that create the amniotic sac. There are two other fetal membranes called the allantois and the secondary umbilical vesicle.

Meconium - darn green mucilaginous material that resides in the intestine of the fetus.

Nadir - lower fetal heart rate reading in a deceleration

Nonreassuring heart rate - When abrupt changes in the fetal heart rate become persistent, more progressive, longer lasting or if the fetus has a persistently slow return to the baseline heart rate. This suggests hypoxia which increases the risk of metabolic acidosis

Pitocin - a drug used to expedite labor to promote labor. It is a dangerous drug that needs to be used cautiously.

Placental abruption - the separation of the placenta from the uterine wall before childbirth. Vaginal bleeding, bloody amniotic fluid, stomach pain, uterine contractions and tenderness, and fetal heart rate abnormalities are warning signs of a placental abruption.

Placenta previa - implantation of the placenta over the small hole at the center of the cervix

Preeclampsia - high blood pressure at or greater than 140/90 seen with protein in the urine greater than 300 mg over a 24 hour period (or consistent positive results on a protein dipstick).

Reactivity - a vague term with many different meanings that we often see in medical records in birth injury cases that relate to heart rate accelerations

Tachycardia - sustained elevation of the fetal heart rate. This is an indication the baby is in distress

Tachysystole - mother experiences more than five contractions in a ten minute period, averaged over thirty minutes.

Tocolytic - a drug that slows or stops uterine activity

Tonus - the intensity of uterine tone or intrauterine pressure between uterine contractions

Variability - the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. On the fetal monitoring strips, it is the "waviness" of the tracings. Generally, variability is a good thing that should not be confused with variable decelerations which are a sign that baby may be, or may soon be, in distress.

Variable decelerations - Variable decelerations are considered non-reassuring only when they become persistent, progressively deeper, and longer lasting, or if they have a persistently slow return to baseline.

Vasa previa - blood vessels in the placenta and the umbilical cord become trapped between the presenting part of the fetus and hole in the center of the cervix.

Getting a Birth Injury Lawyer

Our birth injury lawyers are based in Baltimore, Maryland. We handle birth injury claims all of the United States. We hire a lawyer in your jurisdiction to assist us that comes out of our attorneys' fee. You get two law firms for the price of one. Call us today at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation. There is never a fee or cost associated with your case unless you get a financial recovery.

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