During labour, the midwives and doctors will monitor you and your baby, this includes watching your baby’s heart rate pattern. This is called fetal heart monitoring and is a normal part of the labour process.
Listening to your baby’s heartbeat can help midwives and doctors assess how well your baby is coping with labour.
Choosing to have your baby monitored in labour is your choice. Your choice in how your baby’s heartbeat is monitored can be included in your personalised care plan. This can be shared with those caring for you and your baby to ensure they are aware of your decision.
There are lots of handheld fetal heart rate monitors which you can buy for personal use. This is not recommended by Midwives and Doctors as there have been cases where this has given false reassurance to women which has delayed them getting help for their baby when they have needed it
How Is My Baby Heart Monitored?
There are two ways your baby's heart can be monitored during labour.
It can be monitored either at regular intervals (intermittent) or continuously (electronic fetal monitoring). The midwives and doctors will advise you depending on your pregnancy and risk factors, which one would be
recommended when you go into labour.
Intermittent monitoring is the usual method of monitoring for low-risk pregnancies. It achieves a balance between detecting babies that are not coping well during labour whilst reducing the risk of unnecessary interventions.
Your midwife will listen to your baby’s heart rate at regular intervals during labour, whilst measuring your pulse to ensure they can tell them apart.
Continuous monitoring uses a machine called a Cardiotocograph or CTG. This detects and prints out your baby’s heartbeat continuously during labour.
If you have any risk factors during pregnancy and labour or health problems that might affect how your baby copes with labour, you may be recommended a CTG. This will let the midwives and doctors see if there are any changes to your baby's heart rate pattern and show how they are coping with labour.
How Does A CTG Work?
For the CTG machine to record your baby’s heart rate and contractions, you will have two straps attached to
your abdomen. One strap holds the ‘toco’ (sensor to monitor contractions) in place. The second strap holds the ‘transducer’ (fetal heart rate detector).
The CTG will provide a continuous printout of your baby’s heart rate pattern. The midwives and doctors will monitor this during labour and can explain to you how your baby is coping.
You may choose to have your baby monitored with a CTG or if you are not comfortable with this, you may choose intermittent monitoring. Please discuss this with your midwife to allow a personalised plan for labour based on your choices.
Making Your Decision
Choosing to have your baby monitored in labour is your choice and your midwifery team are available to help guide you through the benefits, risks and options for labour.
Remember, your decision can change any time and you will be supported to make choices on what you feel comfortable with.
If you feel worried and would like more advice you can speak to your midwife during your routine appointments.
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.
You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below.
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