Fetal monitoring involves checking the heart rate and other vital functions of the baby during labor and delivery. It is a useful tool to ensure that the fetal heart rate falls within the normal range of between 110 and 160 beats per minute. In cases where fetal monitoring shows an abnormal heart rate or rhythm it may indicate a lack of sufficient oxygen to the fetus or another potentially dangerous problem.
The Benefits of Fetal Monitoring and Testing
The primary goal of fetal monitoring and testing is to measure the heart rate of the fetus. Detecting and tracing this rate is important during pregnancy, since an abnormal heart rate may be one of the first indications of a problem with the pregnancy.
Fetal testing may be recommended by a doctor if the patient is past her due date, at risk for a complicated delivery, or if the baby is not moving as frequently as usual. Fetal testing can make certain signs of fetal distress more clearly evident, such as if the baby is not receiving enough oxygen due to a placental or umbilical cord problem.
Methods of Fetal Monitoring
Fetal monitoring is usually performed using the following methods:
A fetoscope is a variation on a stethoscope that enables the doctor to hear the heartbeat of the fetus. The doctor moves the fetoscope around the outside of the mother's abdomen to detect and hear the heartbeat of the fetus.
A Doppler Device
A doppler device uses sound waves to monitor the heartbeat of the fetus. A device called a doppler transducer is used on the outside of the abdomen to hear the heartbeat.
Electronic Fetal Monitoring
There are two types of electronic fetal monitoring; external and internal. The external method uses two belts that are placed around the abdomen of the mother. One of the belts measures the fetal heart rate and the other evaluates the length and timing of contractions. Another option is internal monitoring, which requires passing an electrode through the cervix to affix it to the head of the fetus. Electronic fetal monitoring provides a consistent reading of the fetal heartbeat that will indicate any changes taking place.
All forms of fetal monitoring are considered safe to both the mother and baby and are commonly used during labor. Fetal monitoring is an important tool to monitor the condition of the fetus and detect any problems during labor and delivery.