CTG Gerät 2Why did my baby’s heart rate have to be recorded during labour?

The midwives and doctors will always recommend that your baby’s heart rate is listened to during your labour and birth. If your baby is not coping with labour and is becoming distressed, a change in the pattern of their heart rate is one of the first signs that can indicate this.

Monitoring your baby’s heart rate can be performed intermittently using a Pinard stethoscope – this is a trumpet-like instrument. The midwife listens to your baby’s heart rate by placing the Pinard stethoscope against your abdomen.

Another method used to listen to your baby’s heart rate is a hand-held Doptone; this is a battery-operated listening device. Baby’s heart rate is usually listened to every 15 minutes in the established first stage of labour (when your cervix is dilating) and every five minutes in the second stage of labour (when you are pushing).

If there are any concerns about your baby, for example, any possibility that you or your baby may have had an infection, your waters broke a long time before labour began (called prolonged rupture of membranes), your baby has had their bowels opened while still inside your uterus (called meconium- stained liquor), or there are concerns about baby’s heart rate either being too fast, too slow, or going down before, during or after contractions, the baby’s heart rate will need monitoring more closely. Where this is the case, the midwives and doctors looking after you will recommend that your baby’s heart beat is monitored continuously. This tends to be done using an electronic fetal heart rate monitor – called a cardiotocograph (CTG).

Devane D, Lalor JG, Daly S et al (2012). Cardiotocography versus intermittent auscultation of fetal heart on admission to labour ward for assessment of fetal wellbeing (Cochrane Review). (Assessed as up-to-date: 14 Nov 2011). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Issue 2.

East CE, Leader LR, Sheehan P et al (2010). Intrapartum fetal scalp lactate sampling for fetal assessment in the presence of a non-reassuring fetal heart rate trace (Cochrane Review). (Review content assessed as up-to-date: 16 February 2010). The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Issue 3.

Gibb D, Arulkumaran S (2007). Fetal monitoring in practice. Edinburgh: Butterworth Heinemann. 260 pages.

Pateman K, Khalil A, O’Brien P (2008).Electronic fetal heart rate monitoring: help or hindrance? British Journal of Midwifery 16(7):454-457.