Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Pregnancy 4) Fetal Monitoring

Types of fetal monitoring include:

  • External continuous electronic monitoring:
    • Two belts are placed around the mother's abdomen. Attached to the belts are two small transducers. One of these transducers will measure and record the fetal heartbeat. The second transducer records the contractions of the uterus.
  • Internal continuous electronic monitoring:
    • This is used when more accurate readings are required. To perform internal monitoring, the amniotic sac, or bag of water, is broken. Internal fetal monitoring involves the placement of special electrodes on the baby's scalp, which will allow the doctor to monitor the baby's heart rate. The placement of these electrodes is a routine procedure: they do not hurt the baby. A long, soft catheter, filled with sterile water, is inserted into the uterus. This catheter is attached to a transducer that records contractions of the uterus and connects to the monitor. Internal monitoring can be very useful since the powerful contractions of the uterus can place stress on the baby. Internal fetal monitoring provides the doctor with a way to detect trouble quickly, so that he or she can intervene quickly.
  • Fetal pulse oximetry:
    • This device measures fetal oxygen levels during labor and delivery. A small sensor is attached to the fetus. The sensor uses red light and infrared light to measure oxygen levels in fetal bloodstream, and then displays this information on a monitor. Combining fetal pulse oximetry with fetal heart rate monitoring help doctors detect when the fetus is in distress.

Continue to Pregnancy 5) Induced Labor

Last Updated: Sep 28, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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