Can Good Intentions Backfire in Labor?
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There isn’t a mom on the planet who wouldn’t love a way to monitor every moment of her baby’s in utero existence. We all want to know our babies are doing ok. Using the same thinking, most care providers will monitor you baby’s every heartbeat during labor using electronic fetal monitoring, or EFM. It’s worn like a belt around your belly, and as long as you don’t move, it will record every heartbeat on a little strip of paper. Your care provider will watch the monitor and that little strip of paper for signs of trouble.
- It doesn’t work. It’s natural to think that using EFM would help care providers spot babies who are in trouble, but every study that’s ever been done has shown the same thing. Using EFM doesn’t help improve the health and well-being of babies.
- EFM can lie. Well, not on purpose, but studies show that EFM can frequently give a false signal that a baby is in trouble. This means an emergency cesarean for mom, even though baby is perfectly happy and healthy.
- EFM confines pregnant women to bed. The best way to move your baby OUT is to get yourself up and moving. If you’re stuck in bed, you’re not able to help your baby on that journey.
What’s the alternative? Studies show that a baby’s heart rate can be monitored just as safely with a nurse, doctor or midwife regularly checking in to listen at key points in your labor with a Doppler.
Talk with your health care provider about using intermittent listening, so you can move freely, relax between contractions, and avoid the anxiety that comes with being tied to a machine. Keep in mind that if you have a medical complication, if your labor is induced or sped up artificially, if you have an epidural, or if a problem develops during labor, you will likely need continuous EFM. Otherwise, it can be safer and healthier to have intermittent monitoring.