There are certain situations when your doctor may want to monitor your baby during the later stages of pregnancy and/or labour. At this point, you may hear words like ‘fetal heart rate’ or ‘CTG’ amongst other things.
What it is
Electronic fetal monitoring is the process of checking the rate and rhythm of the foetal heartbeat antenatally or during labour and delivery using a machine called a CTG (cardiotocograph). This one means of assessing how your baby is doing in your womb.
The CTG is designed to detect changes in a normal heart rate pattern. The average fetal heart rate is between 110 and 160 beats per minute. This may, however, change due to some conditions in the uterus and your baby’s responses to them. An abnormal fetal heart rate may mean your baby has a fever, heart problems, infection, lack of sufficient oxygen or is in distress.
External fetal monitoring
External fetal monitoring can be done at any time during pregnancy or childbirth. This involves the use of a device to listen to and record the baby’s heartbeat. This device may be a fetoscope (a special type of stethoscope) or a handheld Doppler device. This type of monitoring is used intermittently or continuously depending on the situation.
During prenatal visits, intermittent monitoring is commonly used. It involves applying an ultrasound gel and holding the device in place by hand on the woman’s belly for short periods.
Alternatively, continuous monitoring may be required. An ultrasound transducer is fastened to the woman’s belly with a light, stretchable belt to monitor the rate and pattern of the baby’s heart. This data is sent to a computer which generates a printout of this record in real time.
Contractions can also be monitored and recorded during labour using an external tocodynamometer.
Internal fetal monitoring
This method employs a thin wire (fetal scalp electrode) placed on the baby’s scalp through the cervix. It is connected to the monitor and records the baby’s heart rate. This may be advised if it is technically difficult to get a good quality signal via external monitoring.
You can make an appointment with Dr Kenny on 07 3188 5000.
This article is written to be informative and does not substitute seeking a professional consultation from a medical professional.