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Electronic fetal monitoring

Electronic fetal monitoring measures a baby's (fetus's) heart rate during pregnancy or labor and delivery. It also shows how long and how strong your contractions are. These measurements can help a doctor or midwife check if a fetus is healthy or having any problems.

During labor and delivery, the fetal heart rate is closely watched along with uterine contractions. This helps the doctor or nurse see how the baby is responding and whether any treatments are needed.

Two types of monitoring—external or internal—can be done.

  • For external monitoring, instruments that detect fetal heartbeats and your contractions are placed around your abdomen.
  • For internal monitoring, a thin wire (electrode) is put through your cervix and attached to your baby's scalp. A small tube may also be guided through your cervix and into your uterus to measure contractions. 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.