M is for Monitoring

Fetal monitoring during pregnancy and labor is a way to monitor how well your little one is doing. The information gathered by this test enables you and your provider to make the best in the moment decisions for you and your baby.

What is fetal monitoring?

Fetal monitoring during pregnancy is usually performed by a Non-stress Test or NST. The NST monitors your baby’s heartbeat and any uterine activity you may be having. An ultrasound will also be done to determine the level of amniotic fluid you have. Your provider may recommend an NST if you have gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, or are past your due date.

How is fetal monitoring performed?

Fetal monitoring is most often done at your provider’s office. You will recline in a chair with 2 small round disks strapped to your belly with soft belts. The top monitor records if you are having any contractions. The bottom monitor records your baby’s heartbeat, including any elevations from baby moving or kicking. Within 20-30 minutes, your provider has the information they need and you are on your way. Sometimes if baby is sleepy and not moving very much, they may have you drink some cold water or juice to see if baby will wake up.



During labor you will be monitored to see how close your contractions are and how baby is tolerating labor. Your provider will determine whether you need to be monitored continuously or if you can have intermittent monitoring.

Continuous monitoring is performed during the following situations:

– during an induction

– with an epidural

– if you are receiving any medication through the IV

– during a trial of labor for a VBAC

– if baby is not tolerating labor very well

– with some medical conditions like high blood pressure

– during the pushing stage

Intermittent monitoring is performed when a laboring person and their baby are tolerating the labor process well and have been approved by their provider. During intermittent monitoring, you are attached to the monitor for 20 minutes every hour, giving you a 40 minute break in between. This gives you more freedom to move around without being attached to a stationary monitor.

A way to achieve movement in labor when being continuously monitored is by telemetry monitoring. With this option, you can have continuous monitoring and the ability to move around. The monitor cords are attached to a mobile device that goes with you as you move around in labor. Be sure to ask your provider about the options for you at your local hospital.

During the monitoring, you will be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat.You will also see numbers on the display and a pattern on a paper strip and computer monitor. At the hospital, if the light and sounds distract you from coping in labor, ask your nurse to turn the computer monitor off and decrease the volume. The nurses can still see the fetal monitor readings at the nurses station.




Fetal monitoring during pregnancy or labor is performed to gather specific information about you and your baby’s status. Based on that information, your provider will recommend non-stress tests, continuous or intermittent monitoring. Discuss with your provider in advance what your options are. You can also put your preferences about the monitoring on your birth plan.


By: Lois Perks

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