The World of Pregnancy

What Does Fetal Monitoring Mean?

Fetal monitoring is usually performed during labor because so the doctor can constantly know how the baby behaves during contractions and prevent any issue which might occur during delivery.

What Does Fetal Monitoring Mean

What Does Fetal Monitoring Mean?

Fetal heart monitoring is the constant verification of the baby`s heart rate during labor. In other words, during labor the doctor and a nurse will check the heart rate of the baby to see how he behaves and how he tolerates the mother`s contractions.

Fetal heart monitoring is performed using an electronic fetal monitor – continuous monitoring. While with a Doppler device or fetoscope, the doctor listens to the baby`s heart during prenatal visits – periodic monitoring.

Intermittent or Periodic Fetal Monitoring

Intermittent or periodic monitoring is performed with a Doppler device or fetoscope, which are placed on the pregnant woman`s abdomen during visits to the doctor. He`ll check the contractions by putting his hands on the belly of the future mother.

Periodic monitoring is done every 15 – 30 minutes in the active phase of the first stage of labor and every 5 minutes during the second phase (push phase). The doctor will monitor the baby`s heart rate during contractions when the baby doesn`t move to determine the “average” pulse rate (normal is between 110 and 160 beats per minute). Also, the medical personnel that attends the birth process will check the baby`s heart rate during contractions and immediately after to see how he tolerates the mother`s contractions. If the doctor will suspect a problem, the heart rate of the baby will be checked more often; it may even reach to a continuous monitoring throughout labor.

Fetal heart rate will be checked when water breaks or immediately after a vaginal control.

Continuous Fetal Monitoring

Continuous fetal monitoring is performed using 2 electronic disks (sensors), known as transducers, which are held on the abdomen by an elastic band. One of the disks will monitor the baby`s heart rate, while the other the maternal contractions. The transducers are connected to a device that is near the bed.

Electronic fetal heart monitoring isn`t painful at all, hut some mothers have claimed it`s inconvenient to have 2 disks on their belly during labor. Additionally, the pregnant woman`s movements are limited and the future mother will barely be able to handle the contractions.

Experts cannot agree regarding the comparative advantages of the 2 methods of fetal monitoring. While some studies cannot associate electronic fetal heart monitoring with a significant improvement of Apgar score or a reduction of newborn deaths, other studies who exactly the opposite.

Also, the false-positive readings are common, which show a problem that in fact isn`t there. For the mother, continuous monitoring is associated with a lot of C-sections or assisted deliveries (using forceps and vacuum).

What`s Internal Fetal Heart Monitoring?

In case that external monitoring isn`t efficient (it happens in case that the pregnant woman moves a lot or she`s obese) or the doctor thinks that is necessary to have a more precise monitoring, he may recommend or decide to perform an internal monitoring of the baby.

Internal fetal heart monitoring is an invasive procedure which involves inserting a sensor through the cervix – an electrode – that will be attached to the baby`s scalp. The sensor will be connected to an external monitor and offer more accurate results to the baby`s heart rate.

Also, your doctor might decide inserting a catheter through the cervix so he can monitor your uterine contractions.

When Fetal Heart Monitoring Is Required?

This medical examination is helpful in case of a high-risk pregnancy. Your pregnancy may be at high risk if you experience high blood pressure or diabetes. It`s at high risk if the baby isn`t developing as he should as well.

Fetal heart rate might be used in other medical examinations, which include:

  • Nonstress test – This test will measure the fetal heart rate depending on the baby`s movements.
  • Contraction stress test – This test will measure fetal heart rate along with the contractions of the uterus. The uterine contractions are started using drugs or other various methods.
  • Biophysical profile – BPP represents a combination between the nonstress test and an ultrasound. – Visit this web page!

Things which might affect the fetal heart rate while in labor are:

  • The uterus`s contractions.
  • Pain drugs or anesthesia provided during labor.
  • Medical tests performed while in labor.
  • Pushing while in the 2nd labor stage.

The healthcare provided might have other various reasons for which to perform fetal monitoring.

What Measures Will Be Taken In Case of Fetal Problems?

The doctor who assists the pregnant woman in birth will evaluate the results of the fetal monitoring and in case there are any issues, he may decide:

  • To change the position and administer oxygen and fluids.
  • To stop administering oxytocin, in case labor is induced.
  • Adding drugs to relax the uterus and reduce the contractions.
  • Infusing a sterile fluid into the uterus through a thin catheter, in case the membranes are broken.
  • Caesarean or assisted birth, if the child`s condition worsen.

If you experiencing an electronic fetal heart monitoring and don’t hear the baby`s heartbeat, don’t panic; it`s possible for the transducer on your abdomen to have moved from its place and no longer be in contact with the baby`s heart rate. A nurse will resolve this issue.

Can You Hear a Fetal Heartbeat with a Regular Stethoscope?

A reassuring sound that a mother needs to always hear is the heartbeat of her baby. Before the week 20 of pregnancy, fetal heartbeats are normally monitored with a Doppler device by the doctor. Although you can always buy such a device to use it at home, it can be rather expensive. Fortunately, after the week 20 of pregnancy, the baby`s heartbeat can frequently be heard using an easy-to-get and cheap stethoscope.

  • Lie on the back in space where there isn`t any noise.
  • Feel your belly and locate the back of your baby. It will seem like a smooth but hard region. It`s also the best possible spot to detect your baby`s heartbeat.
  • Place the stethoscope`s ear tips in the ears.
  • Then place the chest piece on the area where you think is the back of your baby.
  • Try to listen as careful as possible for a couple of minutes. If you don`t seem to hear his heartbeat, move your stethoscope up and down along the area where you think is the back of your baby. Pay attention as you might also pick up your very own heartbeat.

Can I Buy a Doppler to Listen to My Baby?

The FDA warns that a Doppler device hold in hand should be used only in the case of a medical necessity and only under the supervision of medical personnel. For instance, your medical practitioner may use such a device to listen to the baby`s heartbeat while you visit the doctor at one of the regular appointments.

You can also purchase such a device on your own to use it in the comfort of your home, but you may find to not be as easy as it may look. Also, the effects on long term of exposing the baby to ultrasound waves in a repeated manner are still unknown.

The Doppler probe will send out a high-frequency sound wave which will pass through the skin and tissue and reach the baby. When these waves find any movements, like the heartbeats of your baby, they bounce back to the Doppler device. It then translates these movements into sounds, and the device will amplify them so you can be able to hear them.

The issue is that anything which moves inside your body, no matter if we are talking about the baby, blood flowing in the arteries or air moving in the intestine, is translated into sound as well.

It requires a lot of practice and training to make the distinguishment between the baby`s heartbeat and other types of sound. And even if you probably find your baby`s heartbeat, you`ll most certainly not be able to recognize the rate of rhythm which might show an issue.

There`re much better methods of keeping tabs on how the baby is doing. You can always just pay as much attention as you can to your little one`s movements, and once you`ll be able to feel them on a regular basis, you`ll have a better understanding on how things are going. And if you notice the baby`s activity is decreasing, you`ll just have to get in touch to your doctor right away.

Image courtesy of gizmodo.com
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