Monitoring your baby in labour

Your midwife will check on how your baby is coping during your labour and there are different ways to do this.

Woman in labour.


If you have had a normal, healthy pregnancy with no problems so far, the midwife will listen to your baby's heartbeat using a Sonicaid. This is the small, hand-held machine the midwife or doctor used to listen to the baby during your pregnancy.

Cardiotocograph (CTG) or Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM)

Sometimes CTG or EFM is used to monitor your baby's heartbeat continuously. The machine also records when you are having contractions. This means you'll need to wear two belts around your bump to hold the monitoring devices in place.

In some hospitals, you might be able to move around with the belts on or use a wireless monitoring system (telemetry).

Fetal blood sampling (FBS)

If the midwife or doctors are worried about your baby's heartbeat from looking at the CTG, they may do an FBS test as well. This shows how your baby is doing more accurately than just the CTG.

A small amount of blood is taken from your baby's scalp, via your vagina, to check the oxygen levels. If the oxygen levels are low, the medical team may suggest a caesarean.

Fetal scalp electrode (FSE)

An FSE is a small electrode that is attached to your baby's scalp. It is sometimes used with the CTG machine if the belts on your tummy don't pick up her heartbeat properly. The FSE is harmless, but it's harder to move around with it in place.

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  1. NICE (2014) CG 190 Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth 
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Last reviewed on September 2nd, 2016. Next review date September 2nd, 2016.

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