Throughout your pregnancy, your health care provider will check your baby’s heart rate, and that won’t change once you go into labor. Special equipment will be used to monitor your baby’s heart rate during labor and delivery to make sure the baby stays safe. Just like you, your baby’s heart rate can change if they are stressed or not getting enough oxygen.
There are two ways your health care provider can monitor your baby’s heart: periodically listing or auscultation or electronic fetal monitoring where instruments are used to continuously record the heart rate. The health care provider will determine which method is used based on facility policy or any health conditions in the mother or baby.
Auscultation is performed with a stethoscope or a Doppler transducer. The Doppler will be pressed against your belly and you will be able to hear a heart beat. Your health care provider will use one of the instruments to monitor your baby’s heart rate at set intervals during your labor and delivery. If you have risk factors or issues during labor arise, it may be monitored more frequently.
Electronic fetal monitoring will use special equipment to monitor baby’s heart rate when the uterus contracts. It can be be external, internal or both. With either method, the mom will have to stay in bed to be monitored. External electronic fetal monitoring is performed with a pair of belts wrapped around your abdomen. One of the belts is to monitor the heart rate and the other is to monitor contractions. Internal electronic fetal monitoring uses a wire called an electrode that is placed on the baby close to the cervix. Uterine contractions can also be monitoring internally through a special tube that will monitor uterine pressure.
If your baby’s heart rate is irregular, your health care provider will try to find and correct the cause. If your health care provider cannot fix the issue, they may decide to deliver your baby right way via cesarean birth or with the use of a vacuum.
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