How Monitoring the Fetal Heart Rate During Labor is Crucial to a Successful Delivery and Healthy Baby

Welcoming a baby into the world should be an exciting and thrilling time. 

As you prepare to welcome a new baby into your family, you shouldn’t have to worry about medical professionals not doing their jobs correctly. In fact, they should be the ones you can trust as you navigate through this new season of life.

Monitoring your baby’s heart rate is one of the ways medical professionals make sure your baby is healthy and everything is going smoothly during labor. 

A medical professional’s failure to accurately monitor your baby’s heart rate during labor and delivery could result in serious birth injuries.

What is fetal heart rate monitoring?

Fetal heart rate monitoring is how doctors monitor a baby’s heart rate during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to make sure the baby is getting enough oxygen.

Doctors and other medical professionals are trained to notice any patterns in the baby’s heart rate that could indicate that there needs to be a C-section or that the baby needs additional medical attention to be delivered safely.

Failure to correctly read a fetal heart monitor could lead to serious complications during labor and delivery. This could also lead to severe birth injuries for the baby, including brain damage.

How does fetal heart rate monitoring work?

There are several different ways that doctors monitor a baby’s heart rate. Methods usually depend on the hospital or the mother’s specific pregnancy situation.

There are two main ways that doctors monitor a baby’s heart rate:

External Fetal Heart Rate Monitor

Some doctors may use a special stethoscope during the early stages of pregnancy to monitor the child and mother’s heart rate. 

An external heart rate monitor is an elastic band with sensors that doctors place around the mother’s abdomen to detect the baby’s heart rate accurately. The heart rate signals are printed on a record called the fetal heart rate monitoring strip and heard as a beeping noise.

Internal Fetal Heart Rate Monitor

An internal fetal heart rate monitor is placed inside the birth canal and next to the baby. 

The wire electrode makes contact with the fetal skin through the cervical opening and is connected to a fetal heart rate monitor. This method is more accurate since it connects directly to the baby.

Doctors and hospitals will use this method if they cannot accurately read the baby’s heart rate monitor using an external heart rate monitor or if they want to keep a closer eye on the baby and the mother during labor.

What are doctors looking for when they monitor a baby’s heart rate during labor and delivery?

When doctors are monitoring the baby and heart rate during labor, they are looking for any abnormalities in the baby’s heart rate that could indicate distress.

When properly monitored, doctors can detect

  • If the baby is in distress
  • If the baby is healthy enough for a vaginal delivery and tolerating contractions and labor, or if the baby needs to be delivered by a C-section

Failure to properly monitor or analyze a fetal heart rate monitor during labor could result in serious injuries to a baby including hypoxic brain damage.

Throughout the labor and delivery process, medical professionals should constantly be checking the vitals of the mother and baby. Nurses must watch the fetal heart rate monitor closely.

Nurses should report any patterns that indicate distress, such as drops in the baby’s heart rate known as “decelerations”  to the doctor immediately.

The Three Categories of Fetal Heart Tracings

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), there are three categories of fetal heart rate monitoring:

Category I

The first category is considered normal. In this category, the baseline rate ranges from 110 to 160. There is moderate variability and no fetal heart rate decelerations.

Category II

This could indicate a variety of things. Most of all, it means that the doctors and nurses need to watch the monitor closely and do interventions to return to a Category I strip.

In this case, the mother should be provided with oxygen and additional medical assistance to try to get the tracing back to Category I.

Category III

The third category is abnormal. This is when the fetal heart monitor shows bradycardia or recurrent variable decelerations.

If a Category III tracing is noted, an emergency C-section should be performed as soon as possible.

Nonreassuring vs. Reassuring Heart Rates

Hospitals and doctors also classify a baby’s heart rate during labor as either reassuring or nonreassuring.

A reassuring heart rate is normal and indicates that the fetus is healthy. A healthy baby’s heart rate will have periodic accelerations and moderate variability

Nonreassuring fetal heart rates indicate that the baby may be distressed. This could be due to a lack of oxygen from compression of the umbilical cord. In this case, intervention should be taken, and the mother may need an emergency C-section.

What to Do If Your Child Has Suffered Birth Injuries

Failure to monitor the fetal heart rate correctly during labor could result in a variety of birth injuries. These include injuries such as: 

No family should have to experience having a baby suffer a birth injury due to medical malpractice. 

If you think your baby has suffered a birth injury during labor and delivery, don’t wait to get help. When you seek legal help, you could improve your child’s quality of life and hold medical professionals accountable so future families do not have to experience the same thing.

MND Stands with You

Children who suffer a birth injury can recover compensation for past and future medical costs, life-long pain and suffering, and future lost earning capacity.

We hope you never need us, but if you think your baby has suffered a birth injury, due to hospital or doctor’s negligence, our team is prepared to help you. Seeking justice for your child could improve your child’s quality of life and help you financially provide for them.

We have the knowledge, skills, and resources to successfully represent individuals and families throughout Oklahoma who have suffered due to medical negligence. 

When you partner with Maples, Nix, & Diesselhorst, you become a part of our family, and family fights alongside one another.

Call our dedicated team at (405) 478-3737 for a free consultation. We stand with you.

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