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Can routine continuous fetal monitoring cause your baby harm?

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2021 | Birth Injuries

Care providers use fetal monitoring to follow a baby’s heartbeat through labor and birth. Clinicians in Ohio use gathered information to determine whether or not to intervene in the birth process. Parents-to-be may wonder if there is the potential for collecting this data to harm the baby.

Does continuous monitoring prevent stillbirth death?

Before the introduction of fetal monitoring in the 1970s, stillbirths were already falling. This makes it hard to determine if one impacted the other. One early study said that 12 out of 13 observational studies revealed a decrease with or without a monitor.

Observational studies found that then-traditional listening devices versus electronic fetal monitoring did not match lowered rates of stillbirths. However, the number was negligible with the rate of low-risk groups being lower than 0.5 stillbirths per 1,000.

Drawbacks of electronic fetal monitoring?

There has been a lengthy debate about the display or sounds of electronic monitoring and how they impact clinical staff. In 2014, researchers reviewed how state of mind affected reaction to labor pain concerning the devices. They discovered that for some, watching a monitor was distracting and often stressful. That was, in turn, linked to imagining more pain during labor.

Those in labor felt less support from their caregivers. The patient felt they got less attention as caregivers seemed to spend more time watching monitors than patients. The patients in these situations also reported less satisfaction and more pain during childbirth.

Curiously, the impact of electronic fetal monitoring coincides with increasing medical malpractice lawsuits, particularly in cerebral palsy matters. Decades ago, clinicians used handwritten notes to defend their applications before electronic monitoring.

Today, the hospital may play a recording from the monitor in their defense in court. However, some monitors do not store data at all, so lawsuits might go the way of the patient. Physicians might not be successful when they attempt to use fetal monitor devices as a defense to malpractice because they are still responsible for providing the best possible care.

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