Fetal heart monitoring measures a baby's (fetus's) heart rate
during pregnancy or labor and delivery. These measurements can help health
professionals check a fetus's general condition and identify early signs of
During labor and delivery, the fetal heart rate is closely watched
along with the mother's uterine contractions (using a tocometer). This helps the doctor or nurse see how the
baby is responding and whether any treatments, such as the use of medicines,
are needed to help speed up delivery.
Two types of monitoring—external or internal—can be done.
For external monitoring, instruments that
detect fetal heartbeats are placed around the pregnant woman's
For internal monitoring, electrodes that measure fetal
heartbeats are connected to the fetus's scalp. Internal monitoring is not done
if there is placenta previa, a condition where the placenta is low and just
above the cervix, because of the risk of bleeding.
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology