Going into labor is probably the most exciting moment during your whole pregnancy! It is also, for most women who are expecting their first child and many who are already seasoned moms, pretty scary. What kind of monitoring can you expect during labor and birth to make sure your baby is doing OK?
When you think about monitoring during labor, your baby's heart rate is the prime thing being examined. This can be done in a lot of different ways, depending on where you are giving birth and with what type of healthcare provider, and also on your own preferences to some extent. If you are giving birth with a midwife at home or in a birth center, your baby's heart beat may be monitored by fetoscope, a Doppler device, or an ear trumpet.
In a hospital, electronic fetal monitoring or CTG is commonly used. Most hospitals will ask laboring mothers to be monitored in this way only some of the time, like 15 minutes out of every hour. A belt is strapped around your belly, and unless you wanted to move around during labor, you won't suffer any discomfort during the monitoring. Mothers with high-risk pregnancies or those whose babies showed unusual patterns may be monitored continuously.
Besides monitoring the baby's heart beat, your healthcare providers will also take note of your contractions. They'll want to know when you went into labor, how often you are having contractions, and how long they last for. Your doctor or midwife will also want to know if your bag of waters has ruptured, and if it has, you may have a "limit" of 24 hours if your labor is not progressing, it may be augmented, or otherwise the healthcare team will suggest a c-section. Your blood pressure may also be checked, along with your cervix! Frequent vaginal exams to see how far the laboring mother's cervix has dilated are not necessary, medically speaking, but take place very frequently.