Internal fetal monitoring is a way to measure your baby’s heart rate during labor. Internal monitoring uses a small wire put through your vagina and attached to your babyâ€™s scalp.
When is it used?
Internal fetal monitoring may be done when you are in labor. Information about the baby’s heart rate and how it changes with contractions helps your healthcare provider know how your baby is doing. This test also shows how strong and frequent your contractions are.
You may have internal monitoring if:
Your provider wants to watch the baby’s condition more closely.
Your provider wants to measure the strength of your contractions.
Your provider wants more accurate information than an external monitor (monitor on your belly) can give.
You have a high-risk pregnancy (for example, you are pregnant with more than 1 baby, you are older than 35, or you have high blood pressure).
You have a health condition, such as diabetes.
You have been given medicine to start your contractions.
What happens during the procedure?
A small wire is inserted through your vagina and placed on the skin of the baby’s scalp to record the baby’s heart rate. You may also have a small tube called a catheter inserted through your vagina into your uterus. The catheter has a gauge attached to it that measures how strong and how fast your contractions are.
The results are viewed as graphs on a video screen. The monitor may show problems that mean your baby is not getting enough oxygen. For example:
Your baby’s heart rate is too fast or too slow
Your contractions are too frequent.
If the babyâ€™s heart rate is not normal your healthcare provider may:
Give you oxygen to breathe.
Change your position.
Give you IV fluids to increase low blood pressure
Give you medicine to stop or slow your contractions or to lessen their strength.
Deliver the baby right away with forceps (an instrument used to grasp and hold your baby’s head while your provider pulls the baby out) or vacuum extraction (a soft cup attached to your babyâ€™s head with a suction pump to help your provider gently pull the baby through the birth canal).
Deliver your baby by C-section (an operation that delivers your baby through a cut in your belly and uterus).
What are the risks of this procedure?
Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:
You or your baby may have infection or bleeding.
Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-09-16 Last reviewed: 2014-09-17
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Internal Fetal Monitoring: References
ACOG Practice Bulletin: Management of Intrapartum Fetal Heart Rate Tracing, Number 116, November 2010.
Cunningham, F., et al. Williams Obstetrics. 22nd ed. The Mcgraw Hill Companies, Inc. 2008. Accessed February 1, 2009 from http://www.accessmedicine.com.
D Maharaj. Intrapartum Fetal Resuscitation: A Review. The Internet Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 2007 Volume 9 Number 2
Gibbs, R., et al. Danforthâ€™s Obstetrics and Gynecology. 9th ed. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2008. Accessed on February 1, 2009 from http://www.ovidsp.tx.ovid.com.
Lockwood, C. Guidelines for Perinatal Care. 7th ed. AAP and ACOG. October 2012.
Young, B., et al. Intrapartum fetal heart rate assessment. Accessed February 25, 2013 from http://www.UpToDate.com.