When you go into the hospital to have a baby, the medical team is going to monitor your baby. This can be continual or periodic. In either case, this provides an important glimpse into how your baby is tolerating the stress of labor. If there are any issues, the medical team can spring into action to help your baby.
What kinds of issues are the team looking for?
A primary factor that doctors and nurses watch for is how the baby's heart rate reacts to various things. A baby who has a deceleration when you have a contraction might need to be born sooner rather than later. A baby with a constant low heart rate is likely going to need to be born right away.
What happens if the team doesn't act?
If your baby isn't getting adequate oxygen via the blood in the umbilical cord during labor and delivery, complications can occur. These include brain damage and even death. This is why it is so important to have monitoring during labor and delivery.
What options are present when distress is noted?
If you are close to delivering the baby, the doctor might try to help the baby be born vaginally by using the vacuum exractor or forceps. If you are still a bit away from delivery or if the distress is severe, the doctor might recommend a c-section delivery.
When complications from fetal distress do arise, the parents might opt to seek compensation for the baby's injuries. This can help the parents afford the medical care that the baby needs.
Source: What to Expect, "Fetal Distress During Pregnancy & Labor," accessed March 17, 2017