5 Questions About Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring

Heart RateWhen fetal monitoring is used (and diagnosed) properly, it can help doctors monitor how childbirth is proceeding. Nowadays, most hospitals in Chicago and throughout the U.S. use FHRM to confirm that babies are healthy during labor—that is, not in fetal distress and at risk of a birth complication.

Below, we’ve tackled the answers to five commonly asked questions about fetal heart rate monitoring.

1. What is fetal heart rate monitoring?

Quite simply, fetal heart rate monitoring is the use of special equipment to check the heart rate of a baby during labor and delivery. (The mother may be hooked up to her own separate monitor.) Fetal status can be checked in a few different ways, and might be monitored continually or only intermittently. If there is the slightest sign of trouble, however, doctors need to take much more thorough and frequent readings.

2. What is external monitoring?

External monitoring is the most common form of continuous monitoring. It involves sensors placed on the mother’s stomach during labor, which monitor the baby’s heart rate and the mother’s contractions. This method works well in most circumstances, but if the baby is particularly small or moving around a lot, then external monitoring might not effectively pick up the baby’s heart rate.

3. What is internal monitoring?

Internal continuous monitoring, on the other hand, involves a thin electrode placed on the scalp of the baby during labor which monitors its heart rate. This method can only be used once the mother is dilated and the amniotic sac has ruptured, since the electrode passes through the mother’s cervix. When there is a high concern for complications and external monitoring is not working, then internal monitoring is used.

4. What about intermittent auscultation?

This type of monitoring involves the use of external machines, a hand-held device, or even simply a stethoscope to occasionally listen to the baby’s heart rate. Intermittent monitoring is usually done at specific intervals during labor. If an issue is detected, then the doctor should switch to a continuous method instead. Intermittent auscultation is typically used where there is a perceived “low risk” of birth complications and continuous monitoring is not necessary.

5. What do doctors do with the fetal monitor information?

The most obvious information provided by FHRM is the heart rate of the baby during labor and delivery. If the baby is not getting enough oxygen, for example, its heart rate can reveal this and prompt the doctor to take action to avoid birth injuries—performing an emergency C-section is one way to do this. While short increases in heart rate are common, doctors must know how to accurately read heart rate monitors and react accordingly to ensure the health of the mother and child.

When doctors use all the tools at their disposal in this technological age, birth complications are usually addressed quickly and properly. But if your child has suffered a birth injury due to a doctor’s negligence, call Sexner Injury Lawyers LLC at (312) 243-9922 to learn about your legal options. Millions have been recovered for our clients and their families since 1990.