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Fetal Monitoring

The healthcare team checks the fetal heart rate frequently during labor to help provide information about how the baby is tolerating the labor process. There are many ways to monitor the baby’s condition, but today continuous electronic fetal monitoring is the most common.

External Fetal Monitoring

A routine assessment is obtained by 2 devices placed on your abdomen. One device gathers information about the fetal heart rate and the other records the frequency and duration of your uterine contractions.

Internal Fetal Monitoring

When additional information is needed, a small wire is attached to the baby’s scalp. This wire records the fetal heart rate. This method is the most accurate way of obtaining this information. The bag of water must be ruptured before the wire can be attached.

Intrauterine Pressure Catheter

The intrauterine pressure catheter or IUPC is used to directly measure the strength and frequency of the uterine contractions. A small, pliable plastic catheter is filled with saline and is placed between the baby and the uterine wall. As the uterus contracts, pressure is placed on the fluid-filled catheter. The pressure of the contraction will be recorded on graph paper, tracking the contraction’s exact intensity.

Fetal Scalp Blood Sampling

A small sample of blood may be taken from your baby’s scalp and tested. With this test, your healthcare provider can not only assess how well your baby is tolerating the labor process but also measure the pH of the baby’s blood. This test is used infrequently today.

Pelvic Exams

Pelvic exams determine the status of the cervix and the position of the fetal head. Every laboring mother is different, and the need for the exams varies accordingly. Relaxing will make it more comfortable and easier for you when your healthcare provider performs pelvic exams to assess the progress of your labor.

Chapter 5 – Labor Guide 71

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