Childbirth: Fetal Monitoring

Health Watch is a Public Service of the University News Bureau and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about how medicine can intervene when the process of childbirth becomes complicated. A cesarean delivery can save the life of an infant who is too weak or stressed to endure a natural birth, but unnecessary C-sections can put the mother at risk.

Doctors may call for a cesarean section when the fetal heart rate is abnormal, but new technology makes it possible to measure the amount of oxygen the fetus is getting, which could help doctors know when a fetus is really in danger. However, research found that having this information didn’t affect C-section rates or the health of the infants. Dr. Steven Bloom, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says that while this study means doctors hadn’t found a new device that could be helpful, it also means that women in labor won’t be subjected to unnecessary equipment. Scientists are continuing to try to find ways to measure the health of the fetus during labor so doctors can make better delivery decisions.

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September 2011

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