Pain and complications

Electronic fetal monitoring is unnecessary and painful — so why do we still use it?

REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) uses an electrode on the baby’s scalp to monitor the heart rate during labor, with the intention of alerting the doctor to complications that would call for a C-section or vacuum extraction. As painless as it may sound, new moms like Lindsey Cool suffered extreme pain when, during labor, her monitor fell off and her doctor ordered a vacuum extraction with her consent. A federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review of controlled studies of EFM found that they made no significant difference in saving the lives of mothers and babies, and can even increase the chance of complications, but it is still the most widely used obstetric practice in the United States. Why? Given the increasing medicalized nature of giving birth, going into labor is considered a matter of health and illness. This means that doctors are less willing to give up tools, even if they aren’t necessarily effective. Doctors are also fearful of being sued for malpractice if anything goes wrong with the delivery and they didn’t use EFM. Midwives now use stethoscopes every few minutes to assess fetal heartbeat, which has been proven to be more effective. However, for many, it doesn’t look like change will come soon.

Read the full story at The New Republic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *