The big day has come.  You are going into the hospital for the birth of your child.  You meet the nurse who hooks you up to a monitoring system that measures the heartrate of the baby as well as your contractions.  What is this, and why is this important in the care of your unborn baby?

Electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) is the only way the baby can communicate with the healthcare providers while still in the womb.

EFM is a tool that healthcare providers use to help determine how well your baby is doing during the labor and delivery process.  It measures fetal heartrate and uterine contractions.  By looking at these two measurements in conjunction with one another, doctors and nurses can determine whether or not your baby is doing well (able to tolerate the stress of labor) when in labor and during delivery.

EFM can help to determine the well-being of your baby during the labor and delivery process.

EFM essentially tells healthcare providers the oxygenation status of the baby during labor.  We all know that oxygen is important to our well being.  It is the same with babies still in the womb.  Babies obtain oxygen through the umbilical cord attached to the placenta which is attached to the wall of mom’s womb.  If a baby is deprived of oxygen, problems due to the lack of oxygen can develop which may lead to lifelong conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Healthcare providers are trained to interpret the fetal monitor tracings to determine if the baby is showing any signs of lack of oxygen or appears to be not tolerating the labor and delivery process for any reason.

What does this mean for you as you walk through the doors of the labor & delivery unit at the hospital?  It is important to remember that EFM can help to determine the well-being of your baby during the labor and delivery process.  It is also important to remember that healthcare providers should be educated and trained to manage the interpretation of EFM.

Does the hospital that you plan to deliver at have policies in place to make sure the staff is adequately trained and equipped to handle a potential emergency?

Does the hospital that you plan to deliver at have policies in place to make sure the staff is adequately trained in the interpretation of fetal monitor tracings?

These are questions that you can ask your healthcare provider, especially if anything appears unclear or uncertain.