Foetal Monitoring During Pregnancy

 During labour or late pregnancy, your doctor may choose to monitor the heart rate and other functions of your foetus. The process can be done intermittently or continuously to ensure that your foetus has no complications. Let’s learn much about this vital process.

 What is Foetal Monitoring?

It’s a technique of checking the rhythm, rate, and absence or presence of accelerations and decelerations in a foetus’ heart beat. The method also determines the heart rate changes of the foetal heartbeat.

Reasons for the Procedure

  •  It is used to assess the well being of a pregnancy or labour and detect problems associated with them
  • It can be done to count a mother’s contractions which reveal if she is going into labour earlier than expected.
  • It is used to monitor the pregnancies when a mother has high blood pressure, diabetes or other risky conditions that may affect a pregnancy
  • It may be used as a component of procedures such as biophysical profile tests and contraction stress tests that are essential during pregnancy.

Keep in mind that situations which may affect the foetal heart rate may include:

  • Uterine contractions
  • Anaesthetic medications given during labour
  • Procedures done during labour
  • Pushing  during delivery

Internal and External Monitoring

  • External monitoring: It involves the use of a device to record or listen to a foetal heartbeat via the mother’s abdomen. The most basic instrument for this procedure is a fetoscope (a type of stethoscope). Also a hand-held ultrasound device (a Doppler) can check the heartbeat during labour and delivery. This process is useful in both prenatal visits and during labour.
  • Internal monitoring: It involves the use of an electronic transducer connected to the foetal skin. A doctor places a wire electrode to the foetal body part via the cervical opening. This electrode connects to the monitor for transmission. Your doctor may use this method if external monitoring doesn’t give good readings. It’s much essential during labour.

 Research shows that internal monitoring provides a more consistent and accurate transmission of the foetal heart rate than external monitoring. 

What are the Risks of Foetal Monitoring?

There are no known risks of external monitoring. However, internal monitoring may pose a risk of getting an infection. It can also cause a cut or a mark on your baby’s head. However, note that it usually heals quickly. You may find that elastic belts involved in holding transducers make you feel uncomfortable. Keep in mind that you should not use internal monitoring if you’re HIV positive as you may affect your baby.


#Please note that development differs from one child to another. Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

#Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: acog, stanfordchildrens, webmd

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