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Nine Months : Monitoring baby's heartbeat

Why is the baby's heartbeat monitored?

Baby's heartbeat is monitored throughout labour to be able to pick up any signs of distress in the baby at the earliest and take prompt action to reduce any risk. A baby's heartbeat is slowed down during a contraction as the blood flow to the baby from the placenta reduces during a contraction. Once the contraction passes, the heart rate should come back to normal. However, if there is a significantly increased heartbeat or if the heartbeat drops suddenly, it could be sign of foetal distress which needs to be attended to.

What are the different ways in which a baby's heartbeat may be monitored during labour?

This is a hand held instrument(a foetal trumpet) used by the midwife to listen to your baby's heartbeat by placing it on your abdomen. The advantage of this instrument is that you can be mobile as the heartbeat is checked at regular intervals and you are not tied down to one place.

Electronic monitor:
Two belts will be strapped across your abdomen. One has an ultrasound device to pick up the baby's heartbeat and the other has a pressure-sensoring device to pick up your contractions. These belts are connected to an electronic monitor which continuously prints your baby's heartbeat and your contractions on paper.Although the procedure itself is not painful, it does restrict your mobility and hence, make your contractions more uncomfortable. Some hospitals use telemetry where tiny transmitters are used for electronic monitoring of the baby's heartbeat. This enables you to be mobile. Ask if your hospital has this facility.

Foetal Scalp Monitoring:
Sometimes a clip (an electrode) may be attached to the baby's scalp for a more accurate monitoring of heartbeat. This involves breaking the waters(if they haven't broken already) and attaching the electrode to the baby's head through your vagina. This is then monitored on an electronic monitor. Your baby may have a small bruise or scratch where the electrode was attached but this will heal soon. You will be given full explanation as to why an internal monitoring like foetal scalp monitoring is being used for your baby.

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