Affiliated Physicians: Maternal Fetal Medicine
What is fetal monitoring?
During late pregnancy and during labor, your doctor may want to monitor the fetal heart rate and other functions. Fetal heart rate monitoring is a method of checking the rate, rhythm, and the presence or absence of accelerations (increases) or decelerations (decreases) of the fetal heartbeat. It also checks how much the fetal heart rate changes around the baseline. The average fetal heart rate is between 110 and 160 beats per minute. The fetal heart rate may change as the fetus responds to conditions in the uterus. An abnormal fetal heart rate or pattern may mean that the fetus is not getting enough oxygen or there are other problems. An abnormal pattern also may mean that an emergency cesarean delivery is needed.
Using a handheld Doppler (a type of ultrasound) to listen to the fetal heartbeat is the most basic type of fetal heart rate monitoring. This is often used during prenatal visits to count the fetal heart rate or in a pregnancy less than 24 weeks. Electronic fetal monitoring is used in late pregnancy to evaluate the fetus or to check fetal well-being during labor. Although the specific details of each procedure vary slightly, generally, electronic fetal monitoring follows this process: