Intermittent Fetal Monitoring During Labor: What To Expect

Intermittent Fetal Monitoring During Labor: What To Expect

Apr 4th 2022

When it comes time for labor and delivery, fetal monitoring is of the essence to ensure safety for both the mother and the baby. Monitoring keeps close tabs on the baby’s heart rate during the labor process, providing vital insight into how the baby is handling the intensity of the mother’s contractions.

Fetal monitoring may be either continuous or intermittent in timing, depending on the delivery method, certain risk factors, labor duration, or the practices of the health care provider or facility. Let’s examine more closely intermittent fetal monitoring during labor and what to expect.

The Basics of Fetal Monitoring

Fetal monitoring has been around in the health care field for several centuries now. Yet the process has certainly evolved through the years. In the modern era, health care professionals use specially designed medical tools or devices to closely listen to the heartbeats of unborn babies. This specialized monitoring involves listening to the sound, patterns, and variability of the beats to check for any changes in the baby’s well-being.

Intermittent monitoring—also known as intermittent auscultation—employs a handheld obstetric doppler, a stethoscope, or an electronic fetal monitoring device. Not one type of fetal monitoring is right for everyone. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends intermittent observance during labor for low-risk women. For this reason, many care providers and midwives use this recommended type of monitoring for mothers-to-be with uncomplicated pregnancies.

Intermittent Monitoring: Standards and Guidelines

Essentially, intermittent monitoring is a labor management approach that analyzes current data. If you’re wondering what to expect of intermittent fetal monitoring during labor, keep in mind that how often a professional finds it necessary to check on the baby depends on certain circumstances. Labors differ between mothers, and assuring the safest labor and delivery is the main goal for care teams.

Generally speaking, a nurse, provider, or midwife will check for any apparent signs of fetal distress at certain time intervals based on set guidelines. They will listen between contractions for around 60 seconds. Intermittent monitoring typically occurs every 15 to 30 minutes during the first phase of active labor and every 5 to 15 minutes during the pushing stage.

Monitoring Devices: The Use of Handheld Dopplers

When pressed directly against the belly, Doppler devices use ultrasound to identify and recreate the tone of a baby’s heartbeat. As long as this sensitive machine detects a normal heartbeat, the labor and delivery can continue as outlined in the chosen birth plan. For people considering a home or water birth, mobile fetal heart monitoring is possible with an obstetric waterproof Doppler unit.

All things considered, be sure to address any fetal monitoring concerns or questions with your care provider during scheduled prenatal visits. Understanding the various options and expectations before the big arrival is key. The best monitoring choice will depend on personal situations and preferences, hospital or birth center practices, or your midwife’s model of care.