Fetal heart monitoring is crucial for checking the baby's heartbeat while it is still inside the uterus. This exam also provides information regarding baby's heartbeat during delivery. Such monitoring can be external or internal, depending where the electrodes necessary for the exam are placed.
More about External Fetal Monitoring
External fetal monitoring is not invasive and is performed through the skin of the mother's belly.
During the exam, the mother is placed into a sitting position. Her back and knees are slightly elevated and the uterus moved a bit towards the left with a cushion placed under her right hip.
Once the mother's belly is covered with conductive jelly, specific electrodes are placed on the skin and they start to measure fetal heart rate. These electrodes are also capable of identifying and measuring the presence and duration of uterine contractions, once these occur. Even though the results of such measurement are seen on a TV screen, they are also printed and given to the future mom.
Nonstress Test and Contraction Stress Test
Nonstress test, one more type of external monitoring is done after the fetus is older than 27 weeks. The test is actually performed to investigate and evaluate changes in fetal heart rate when mother is acting normally.
Contraction stress test, on the other hand, is performed when contractions start. The test is supposed to measure oxygen supply to the fetus via some parameters while the uterus is contracting.
Mother is in the same position as in the previously mentioned tests and electrodes are also placed on the abdomen. In case there are no contractions these can be stimulated by intravenous oxytocin (a drug capable of causing contractions). Another way to induce contractions is by stimulating mother's nipples.
More about Internal Fetal Monitoring
As the very name suggests this is more complex test comparing to external monitoring test. Namely, in this case electrodes are placed on the baby's scalp while it is still in the uterus. This test is not so frequently performed and is reserved for cases when results of external monitoring are suspicious or external exam simply cannot be properly performed.
The Significance of Fetal Monitoring
Both, external and internal fetal monitoring are performed with one goal, to evaluate fetal heart rate. The test also evaluates variability between beats and compare these to contractions of the uterus. The results obtained during testing give insight in how the baby tolerates the entire process of delivery and whether he/she is supplied with sufficient amount of oxygen or there is oxygen deprivation. Oxygen deprivation is a serious condition that requires immediate medical intervention.