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Fetal Monitoring

Frequently Asked Monitoring Questions

What is fetal monitoring?

There will be a tocodynamometer placed on the top of your uterus. This is a device that is used to measure the length and frequency of your contractions. This type of device will not measure the strength of your contractions. If you have an internal contraction monitor placed, through your vagina, we can tell the actual strength of contractions of your uterus. You will also have a fetal ultrasound placed on your belly, where baby is located, and it also allows us to check on the baby’s heartbeat. During labor you will be on the fetal monitor at least 15-20 minutes every hour. When you have an epidural both the contraction and fetal monitor will stay on continuously due to the fact that you will no longer be getting out of bed. Uterine and fetal monitoring allows us to detect certain problems. If problems develop, the baby can usually be delivered before any damage occurs.

Will I be monitored?
It depends on whether or not you have certain problems during your pregnancy (such as high blood pressure) or other problems during labor, but often times, as stated previously, you will be monitored at least 15-20 minutes every hour.
What is a non-stress test?

Sometimes your physician may decide to use fetal monitoring to see if your baby is doing well before you go into labor. This can be done at the office or the hospital. A non-stress test is done while you are resting. You are placed on both the contraction and fetal monitor and baby is watched for 20-30 minutes. Your physician will be checking for an increase in the baby’s heartbeat when you feel the baby move, this is a sign that baby is healthy in the uterus.

What is a modified biophysical profile?

Your physician may choose to add an ultrasound to the non-stress test to see how much amniotic fluid is in the uterus (womb). These two tests together are called the modified biophysical profile. The ultrasound will be done to see if there is enough amniotic fluid around the baby.

What is a biophysical profile?

If your physician chooses this test, it will usually start with a non-stress test. Ultrasound will then be used to look at how the baby moves, its muscle tone, how it breathes and to check the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby.

If these tests are normal, it usually means your unborn baby will do well for at least the next week. Once you have had a test performed, it is usually repeated once or twice a week until you deliver.

What if the monitoring is not normal?
Noninvasive measures will be attempted first, for example, position change or fluid bolus, if unsuccessful your physician will probably want to get your baby delivered quickly. This may sometimes mean having a cesarean section.


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