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Negligent Fetal Monitoring During Labor

Updated April 21, 2021 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

What Is Fetal Monitoring?

Fetal monitoring measures the heart rate, rhythm, and other functions of the fetus, including the presence or absence of accelerations and decelerations of the heartbeat.

The average fetal heart rate is between 110 and 160 beats per minute, but this could change as the fetus responds to conditions in the uterus. Abnormalities in fetal heart rate or pattern may indicate that the fetus is not getting enough oxygen or that there are other problems, and such monitoring is done in two ways–internally or externally.

Internal Fetal Heart Monitoring

This method uses a thin wire (electrode) that runs from the scalp of the fetus through the cervix of the mother. This method gives better readings but can only be used when the fetus reaches the proper position in the birth canal and adequate dilation has occurred. Internal monitoring is used to watch the fetus more closely during labor or when external monitoring fails to provide a good reading.

External Fetal Heart Monitoring

This method uses a device to listen to and record the fetus heartbeat through the abdomen of the mother. Typically, an ultrasound transducer is attached to the abdomen with straps, it transmits the fetal heartbeat rate and pattern to a computer, displays this information on a screen, and then prints the data on paper.

When Is Fetal Monitoring Necessary?

Fetal monitoring is especially helpful if:

  • You have a high-risk pregnancy
  • You have diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Your baby is not developing or growing properly

Fetal monitoring may be used in other tests, including:

  • Non-stress test (measures fetal heart rate as the fetus moves)
  • Contraction test (measures fetal heart rate and uterine contractions)
  • Biophysical profile (BPP) (combines a non-stress test with an ultrasound)

What Are the Benefits and Risks of Fetal Monitoring?


  • May help with recognition of problems in the fetus
  • Could indicate the need for other testing or alternative delivery methods


  • Infection (with internal monitoring)
  • Fetus scalp injury (with internal monitoring)
  • Increased chance of forceps and vacuum use for vaginal delivery, and for cesarean section (C-section) delivery.

Negligence in Fetal Monitoring

Failure to recognize or properly address a concern that arises during fetal monitoring can lead to health risks and lifelong injuries. Possible health risks and injuries include:

Contact a Birth Injury Attorney Today

If you believe that your child has been injured as a result of negligent fetal monitoring during labor, your first step is to reach out to a birth injury lawyer. An Indianapolis birth injury lawyer and staff can help you build a case and get you and your child the help you need.

With a strong and trustworthy attorney, you’ll have someone advocating for what’s rightfully yours. Contact Wilson Kehoe Winingham for a consultation to decide how to best move forward with your case. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.


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