Fetal heart monitoring measures a baby's (fetus's) heart rate during pregnancy or labour and delivery. These measurements can help health professionals check a fetus's general condition and identify early signs of distress.
During labour and delivery, the fetal heart rate is closely watched along with the mother's uterine contractions (using a tocometer). This helps the doctor or nurse see how the baby is responding and whether any treatments, such as the use of medicines, are needed to help speed up delivery.
Two types of monitoring—external or internal—can be done.
- For external monitoring, instruments that detect fetal heartbeats are placed around the pregnant woman's abdomen.
- For internal monitoring, electrodes that measure fetal heartbeats are connected to the fetus's scalp. Internal monitoring is not done if there is placenta previa, a condition where the placenta is low and just above the cervix, because of the risk of bleeding.
Current as of: June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Femi Olatunbosun MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology