Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM) is a method in which electronic instruments are used to record the heartbeat of the fetus and contractions of the mother’s uterus
So, if you’re delivering at a hospital, you may need fetal monitoring (unless you come in quickly and blow a baby out!)
You’ll have two external monitors attached to you (sometimes internal monitors are necessary for high-risk mamas), one to monitor contractions, and one for the baby’s heart rate.
Is Electronic Fetal Monitoring Safe?
Electronic fetal monitoring ensures your baby’s health and safety during labour and delivery by reassuring you and your practitioner that it’s safe to continue with labour and delivery, as long as a normal heartbeat is detected and there are no other problems
When the baby’s heart rate is monitored, medical staff are looking for red flags that might indicate distress and/or the potential need for intervention. Some babies do not cope well with the normal stress of labour so medical staff will look for things like accelerations in heart rate, decelerations in heart rate, or general variabilities that let them know something could be going on.
Monitoring your contractions also gives staff important information about your labour progress because they can see frequency and duration. One thing they CAN’T tell is the strength of the contractions.
EFM is necessary in some cases and HAS saved lives. Unfortunately (like cervical exams), in some instances if it overused. The fact is, there is little research-based evidence that we need to monitor low-risk mamas as we do.
In fact, some research shows that continuous EFM actually leads to more interventions (such as unplanned C sections and use of forceps) which can lead to higher and higher mortalities.Although you can refuse to monitor entirely, the staff may be unhappy about this and ask you to sign a form or statement releasing them from liability if anything goes wrong during labour and birth.
Current ACOG guidelines recommend intermittent fetal monitoring for low-risk pregnancies. Continuous EFM is only necessary for high-risk mamas. But every hospital has a different interpretation of what “intermittent” actually means…
The bottom line – now you know what’s on that screen while you’re in labour! BUT it is recommended that you with your EFM provider before you’re due so that you know what to expect and can put preferences on your birth plan!!
SO. EFM, we kinda need you, but we kinda hate you. You also make all the nurses go crazy 😜