During labor and delivery, your OBGYN or medical professional may use a Doppler transducer to listen to your baby’s heartbeat. A transducer device may also be attached to your belly with a belt. This allows your baby’s heart rate and pattern to be transferred to a computer screen for continuous viewing. A second belt is used to measure the length of contractions and the time between contractions.
With internal fetal heart monitoring, an electrode is inserted through the cervix and put on the baby’s scalp or body part closest to the cervix. This internal monitor can only be placed after the amniotic sac (water) has broken and the cervix is dilated.
Electronic fetal monitoring is helpful in assessing how well the baby is tolerating the birthing process. Monitoring can also alert medical personnel to potential problems requiring action. Those actions can be as simple as repositioning the mother to increase the amount of oxygen being funneled to the fetus, or as urgent as immediate delivery. Depending on the circumstances and stage of labor, delivery options include cesarean section, use of forceps or vacuum extraction.
If you are expecting, be sure to talk with your obstetrician ahead of time about the use of fetal heart rate monitoring and how it will be used during labor and delivery. Understanding the purpose of fetal heart rate monitoring and how it is performed can reduce anxiety during the birthing process.