Fetal Monitoring During Labor

Posted on: November 22, 2021 | birth, Body, Doulas, education, Health, Information, Labor, Labor Doulas, Pregnancy, Prenatal

Claudia had been going to her high-risk obstetrician for months, and was not a stranger to fetal monitoring. She had been feeling some contractions for the past 24-hours and was sitting in her appointment room being monitored. The nurse stated that she was in fact experiencing contractions, adding that she may be experiencing signs of early labor. Claudia sat nervously. She was still 6 weeks out from her estimated due date, and was assured that everything was great with the baby. She had reached out to her doulas to update them on the happenings. They were a reassuring presence as she awaited her OB’s return. The idea of having her baby monitored was important for Claudia’s mental well-being. 

What is Fetal Monitoring 

Fetal monitoring is a method of tracking the activity, movement, breathing, and heart rate of a fetus in utero. This is one way to understand how a baby is growing, managing, and tolerating pregnancy and labor while in the womb. While there are handheld dopplers sold that allow for expectant parents to listen to the baby’s heart rate themselves, fetal monitoring is generally conducted by a professional and/or a provider for accuracy and record.  

How is it Conducted

Fetal monitoring can be conducted throughout one’s pregnancy, depending on the health and risk of the gestational carrier, as well as the baby’s overall health and growth. During each prenatal appointment, a handheld fetal monitor doppler is placed on the bell to hear the heart beats of the baby in order to gauge heart rate. This non-invasive monitoring takes a few minutes to achieve. 

As the laboring process begins, fetal monitoring is more prominent. There are a few methods of fetal monitoring which include: handheld doppler, external fetal bands, and trans ultrasound monitor.  Because fetal monitoring limits the movement of the birthing individual; this can be inhabiting for the variety of laboring positions that the birthing person may feel inclined to try.    

What is the Benefit of Fetal Monitoring

The benefits to fetal monitoring can be objective to the birthing situation. Birth as a whole has a kaleidoscope of methods, ideals, interventions, and holistic views.  Benefits to fetal monitoring can include peace-of-mind to the family and an indication of how a baby is tolerating labor. Being able to monitor a baby’s heart rate can give an indication of fetal distress and more. This allows the medical providers a gauge into the contractions and the progresses of labor. 

Constant Monitoring During Labor

In constant fetal monitoring, the birthing person is connected to two monitors attached to bands. One monitor measures the baby’s heart rate during labor. The other connected monitor measures contractions that are occurring during labor. A benefit to constant monitoring is that the baby’s ability to tolerate the uterine contractions, labor position of the birthing person, and the length of labor are known and accessed for fetal distress. A risk to constant monitoring is that the birthing person’s movements are often limited which can inhibit the natural laboring pattern; or stall labor. An alternative to constant monitoring is intermittent monitoring. In most cases, it’s not applicable to do “nothing” as some form of fetal monitoring during labor is warranted. 

Intermittent Fetal Monitoring During Labor

Intermittent fetal monitoring is the process of monitoring the baby periodically. This form of monitoring may be conducted transvaginally or with bands placed around the abdomen. A benefit to intermittent monitoring is that the birthing person is able to ambulate, or move about. This is favorable to aid in the laboring process and work with natural instincts and gravity. A potential risk to intermittent monitoring is that possible distresses in the baby may not be found immediately.  An alternative to intermittent monitoring is no fetal monitoring or consistent fetal monitoring. In some cases, it’s not applicable to do “nothing” as some form of fetal monitoring during labor is warranted. 

Claudia left her prenatal appointment with strict orders to practice bed-rest. Her body was indeed contracting, and her care team wanted Claudia to take these next 6 weeks a little easier. Claudia wasn’t opposed to being bed-ridden, she wanted to do everything she could to keep baby baking as long as possible, if that included fetal monitoring while she labored she was on board.  Although it wasn’t in her birth plan