Fetal heart rate is frequently monitored during labor. Usually this is done intermittently, but may be done continuously if certain risk factors for the fetus are present. Continuous monitoring is a good screening test for umbilical cord compression, fetal hypoxia and acidosis.



(1) high false positive rate (during early labor 20% of normal fetuses may show a fetal heart rate pattern that is not normal, reflecting fetal stress rather than distress)

(2) not sensitive to all conditions affecting fetal health

(3) subjective interpretation of fetal heart rate patterns


Indications for Continuous Electronic Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring


Maternal "at risk" conditions:

(1) diabetes mellitus

(2) hypertension

(3) labor before 34 weeks

(4) labor after 42 weeks


Meconium staining of amniotic fluid


Presence on intermittent monitoring of:

(1) tachycardia > 150 beats per minute

(2) bradycardia < 110 beats per minute

(3) slowing of the heart rate by > 15 beats per minute after contraction


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