Electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) is one of the most important procedures done to understand and evaluate the health of your baby inside the womb. EFM involves checking on the heart rate of your foetus while also understanding the strength and contractions inside your uterus, which becomes crucial during the phase of labor and childbirth.
As an expecting mother, you are probably eager to understand more about electronic fetal monitoring to get an insight of the mechanism as well as the advantages of doing it. In this article, we have given a basic outline on the subject.
Electronic Fetal Monitoring:
Electronic fetal monitoring is done during pregnancy or labor to keep tabs on how the baby is doing and also to check the strength and duration of the contractions of the mother’s uterus. EFM is done to examine two important aspects:
- Your baby’s heart rate while inside the uterus.
- The strength of your uterine contractions before delivery or while in labor.
[ Read: Tests To Take During Pregnancy ]
Methods Of Fetal Monitoring:
EFM is a good mechanism to know whether your baby is doing well or may require immediate medical attention. There are usually two methods of fetal monitoring procedures:
1. External Monitoring:
An external electronic fetal monitoring is done with a special electronic device called a fetoscope or a handheld Doppler device.
- This method can also be done using two flat devices or sensors held in place with elastic belts on your belly.
- One of the sensors uses reflected ultrasound waves to keep track of your baby’s heart rate while the other sensor measures the duration of your uterus contractions.
- A machine connects to both sensors to record the information. Your baby’s heartbeat is printed as a chart or can be heard as a beep.
- Sometimes external monitoring can be done remotely without using wires. This process is also known as telemetry.
[ Read: Ultrasound In Pregnancy ]
2. Internal Monitoring:
If the external monitor is not picking up well, your practitioner may recommend you for an internal monitoring to obtain an accurate reading. The reasons for not getting an accurate reading for in external monitoring can be many, such as a simple device issue, you’re moving around a lot, you’re overweight. Internal monitoring is done if the amniotic fluid has ruptured or your cervix has already dilated to 2 centimeter or more.
- For internal monitoring, a sensor is attached to the mother’s body. A thin wire (electrode) from the sensor is then inserted through your cervix reaching your uterus.
- Once the electrode is connected to the baby’s scalp, the heart rate is read.
- The heart rate and contractions readings are more accurate in internal monitoring than external monitoring.
- Internal monitoring does not use ultrasound waves for monitoring as in the case of external monitoring.
3. Continuous Electronic Fetal Monitoring:
Many practitioners and hospitals insist that laboring women be attached to an electronic fetal monitor continuously throughout active labor and birth regardless of risk factors. You will be advised for a continuous electronic fetal monitoring if:
- You have pregnancy complications.
- You need an epidural during childbirth
- You require oxytocin (Pitocin) to induce labor.
[ Read: Doppler Fetal Monitor ]
Concerns In Your Baby’s Heart Rate:
Practitioners will watch out for the persistent fast heartbeat of your baby, which could be a cause of concern or relative dip in the heart rate which could be worrisome too.
- Sometimes a few simple interventions such as changing your position, giving you more fluids through an IV, and giving you supplemental oxygen may be enough to improve things.
- Depending on your situation, other interventions may be necessary too. This may include stopping oxytocin, recommending you medication to relax your uterus and decrease your contractions; or, if your membranes are ruptured, infusing sterile fluid into your uterus.
- You could also be advised for a C-section or assisted delivery, based on your condition.
So if you are an anxious mom-to-be… do enjoy the galloping of your baby’s heartbeat as much as you want to! Do not panic in case there is a dip in heart rate heard- you can leave a scope of technical errors there too.
Tell us about your first experiences mommies:
Reference : 1 , 2
- 3 Essential Tests To Take During Pregnancy
- Genetic Testing During Pregnancy – What Is It And What Is Its Significance?
- 4 Useful Tips Of Using Doppler Fetal Monitor At Home
- Is Ultrasound Safe During Pregnancy?