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Monitoring pregnancy is a great way of maintaining the health of your child, even before he/she gets born, taking adequate action should any complications appear. One of the best methods for fetal monitoring is fetal heart monitoring.

This process allows the health experts to keep an eye on the status of the fetus during the labor, reacting timely in case of problems.

Fetal Heart Monitoring Importance

Basically, there are two major types of fetal heart monitoring. The most frequently used one is the EFM, tracking the heart rate and the rate of uterine contractions, measuring the time between these. Namely, due to the fact that the fetal heart rate needs to match the contractions in a certain way, this device is crucial during labor and pregnancy monitoring. Less commonly, health experts use manual auscultation, involving a small, hand-held Doppler device or a similar device, called fetoscope.

Either way, if a child is healthy and experiences no problems during the labor process, his/her heart rate should be within 110 and 160bpm. Anything below or above this value signifies some sort of a health problem that needs to be dealt with timely.

The real potential of these forms of fetal monitoring started being noticed during the 1980s, when the EFM became one of the most commonly used methods for keeping track of fetal health. Initially, only 45% of all pregnant women took advantage of this device. However, by 2008, the numbers have risen to 85%. Even though fetal monitoring cannot prevent occurrences such as cerebral palsy, it can notice other health problems timely, allowing the doctors to distribute extra oxygen to the mother, change her position or cease the process of labor stimulation. Also, this form of fetal monitoring allows timely diagnosis of unpreventable problems, where doctors can know exactly when a premature labor will result in the preservation of the child's life.

Thus, the most common problem which takes place during pregnancies is the narrowing of the blood vessels in the uterine area, briefly cutting off the oxygen supply to the fetus. Fortunately, the child's heartbeat changes naturally in order to deal with this occurrence. Yet, sometimes, these changes fail to take place or do appear to be incompatible with the contractions. FHM enables health experts to notice this on time and react.

Types of Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring

As it is explained in through the lines above, two major types of fetal heart rate monitoring exist. The auscultation involves keeping track to the fetal heartbeats periodically, while electronic fetal monitoring provides real-time, constant insight into the contractions and the baby's heartbeat.

The more common alternative, the EFM manifests through the usage of professional electronic equipment in order to measure the baby's heart rate and compare it with the frequency of uterine contractions. EFM is commonly used in cases of diabetes, premature labor, preeclampsia or poor fetal growth and development, being applied internally, externally or both.

During this form of fetal monitoring, the mother stays still in bed, after making herself comfortable. Once the device is mounted and installed correctly, the recording of the heartbeats and the contractions begins.

If the monitoring is internal, electrodes are used, being placed on the baby's scalp. On the other hand, the uterine contractions are internally monitored through an intrauterine pressure catheter. Keep in mind that internal fetal monitoring is not possible before the water breaks.

As for external fetal heart rate monitoring a pair of specially designed belts are wrapped around the abdominal area. Here, one belt records information through a Doppler device, while the other measures the frequency of contractions.

If the baby is found to lack oxygen due to the uterine contractions cutting off the blood supply, the mother is asked to change her bodily position, enabling blood to pass through to the baby. Also, medications or IV fluids can be helpful for dealing with these labor problems. Yet, if none of the preventive methods help and the health of the baby gets jeopardized, the labor takes place immediately, through cesarean incision or vacuum extraction.

Therefore, fetal heart rate monitoring is a crucial method for ensuring the health of your child during labor. Many factors can lead to complications and problems during this stage of pregnancy and it is very important to notice these timely, making it possible for health practitioners to react and prevent any dangers which may compromise the health of the baby.

Thus, fetal heart rate monitoring is an invaluable tool for keeping one's pregnancy safe. Regardless of the type of the fetal heart rate monitoring, this preventive measure promotes health and rules out any potential risks. The most common type of monitoring is electronic fetal monitoring, providing constant information on the frequency of uterine contractions and the heart rate of the fetus.

All in all, fetal heart rate monitoring can save the life of your child before and during labor, so make sure you ask your health provider all about it.

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