Delivering a healthy child without harming the mother is a key objective of childbirth, so monitoring the changes in the baby's heart is very important aspect of childbirth management. The condition of the baby's brain and heart can be checked with ultrasound or a blood test.
Listening for the fetal heart beat
# In the past, doctors used a stethoscope to hear the baby's heartbeat. Because it is hard to listen for the baby's heartbeat through amniotic fluid with a regular stethoscope, a special stethoscope that relays the heartbeat through metal and air is used.
# Today, a baby's heartbeat is monitored using ultrasound. These machines amplify the movement of the heart into audible sound.
# There is no need to monitor the baby's heartbeat throughout labor if the mother is healthy. But there is always the possibility of the baby's condition worsening, and the baby's heartbeat should be monitored continuously if the mother is considered to be in a dangerous state, so as to allow appropriate measures to be taken immediately.
# For a mother without any special problems, the baby's heartbeat should be checked every 30 minutes during irregular contractions, and then every 15 minutes when the contractions become regular. If the mother is in a dangerous situation, the baby's heartbeat should be checked every 15 minutes; then, every 5 minutes after the uterus opens and until the baby is born.
Electronic heartbeat monitoring device
# Besides changing the heart's movement into sound, an electronic heartbeat monitoring device automatically measures the baby's pulse rate.
# Even if it is done periodically, it is a good idea to check the baby's condition with this device. A mother with uterine bleeding should be monitored continuously. An abruptio placentae (premature detachment of the placenta) is a possibility, and her condition, and the baby's, can deteriorate quickly.
# Unlike periodic monitoring, continuous monitoring allows the mother to hear her baby's pulse and puts the medical staff at ease.