Is Fetal Heart Rate (FHR) Monitoring Necessary?
From a research standpoint, there is nothing to indicate that FHR monitoring is needed nor does it improve the outcomes of moms and babies. There is some thought that FHR monitoring can catch problems early, and it can, but it can also lead to more c-sections. If you are in a hospital you will have at least external monitoring some of the time.
What does the monitor show?
The monitor reads the baby's heart rate along with a monitor to show the contractions. They are looking for how the baby's heart rate reacts to the contractions. The reaction shows generally how the baby is doing. Throughout the labor process we want to see accelerations in heart rate, as this is healthy.
There are also decelerations that indicate different things. An early deceleration occurs as the head is compressed, typically as you near the time to deliver. This is considered normal. A late deceleration happens after the contraction and indicates a problem with placental profusion. This can happen for a number of reasons including cord compression or placenta issues.
With labor there is also the risk of prolonged deceleration. This was mentioned in our discussion of c-sections as it is quite serious. It can indicate that the baby is ready to be born, but if it's not then usually there is a more serious issue and you may be heading for an emergency c-section.
Should I use FHR monitoring in labor?
If you are laboring at a hospital you will have some monitoring without question. How much depends on your doctor. If you are wanting to have as little monitoring as possible, talk to your provider early to find out what their thoughts and policies are as well as the policy of the hospital you will be delivering at. If you are being induced you will have to have continuous monitoring. Like everything else this is a matter of prayer as God is the only one who knows how your labor will go.
What is your experience with FHR monitoring? What do you think about it?