safe motherhood



There are different ways in which your baby's heartbeat during labour:

• Using a Pinard's stethoscope which is a simple, cone-shaped piece of wood or plastic that the midwife places on your tummy to channel the sound of your baby's heart into her ear.

• With a Doppler or Sonicaid. This is a hand-held device which uses the principles of ultrasound to reflect your baby's heartbeat so that it can be heard by your midwife (and you).

• By strapping two ultrasound monitors to your tummy, one at the top and one lower down. The monitors have wires leading to a machine which records your contractions and your baby's heartbeat on graph paper. The machine also gives a digital read-out of your baby's heartbeat.

• By attaching a small monitor to your baby's scalp with a metal clip. This is called a fetal scalp electrode. The wire from the electrode passes down your vagina, across your thigh to the monitoring machine. The first two types of monitoring do not tie you down in any way.

The second two types of monitoring involve fixed electronic apparatus and make it much more difficult for you to move around freely. You need to keep still when you have monitors strapped to your bump because they can easily become dislodged. And having a monitor clipped to your baby's head will probably make you reluctant to change position for fear of pulling it off. You can request that it be attached to a double end cable as this makes movement for the mother easier.

You can choose how you want to be monitored:

• Intermittently with the Pinard or Sonicaid
• Intermittently with the abdominal monitors (for example: for 20 minutes every 3 - 4 hours)
• Continuously using either the abdominal monitors or the fetal scalp electrode.

Research shows that if you have had a normal, healthy pregnancy, and your labour is progressing normally, the best way to listen to your baby's heartbeat during labour is with a hand-held Doppler or Pinard.