Hot off the press:  Evidence on Fetal Monitoring During Labor by Rebecca Dekker, Ph.D, RN of

Nearly 90% of women who give birth in US hospitals have their baby’s heart rate monitored electronically, usually continuously, using straps and wires that tie women to the hospital bed and limit upright positioning, freedom of movement, and access to water immersion.  Parents often accept this technology as essential for protecting the health and safety of their baby.  But is continuous electronic fetal monitoring associated with any health benefits for babies?  Extensive research has shown that this widely-used technology is not associated with lower rates of infant morbidity and mortality, when compared with periodic hands on listening (using a hand-held Doppler ultrasound).  In fact, because of the poor reliability of interpretation of fetal heart rate tracings, continuous electronic fetal monitoring is associated with higher rates of Cesarean, vacuum, and forceps deliveries.  So why don’t more hospitals abandon this non-evidence based practice and adopt intermittent hands on listening for monitoring fetal well-being?

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