"The umbilical cord, the brain and the heart are the particular aspects of the fetus that have to be conserved almost at all costs to maintain life," says Dr. Lawrence D. Devoe, Brooks Professor and chair of the MCG Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "When you start seeing changes in the heart that suggest an oxygen deficit, such as elevations in the ST segment, that means your ability to handle an overall lack of oxygen has been exceeded and your defenses are beginning to crumble."
Dr. Devoe is a principal investigator on the study of a device that combines this ST segment monitoring which also is measured in an electrocardiogram, or ECG, with the standard fetal heart rate monitoring performed on 80 to 90 percent of the 3.2 million babies exposed to labor in the United States each year.
Typical heart rate monitoring includes putting an ultrasound unit on the mother's abdomen or an electrode on the baby's head via the vagina to pick up fetal heartbeat, which is translated into a pattern. Although obstetricians know certain heart rate patterns indicate stress, "it's a pretty big leap from seeing these patterns to knowing for sure that oxygen delivery to the baby's brain is being interfered with," Dr. Devoe says. In fact, about half the time doctors see the abnormal heart rate, the baby is in no immediate danger.
Heart rate monitoring alone also can provide a horribly false sense of security. "A baby that is stressed early on would r
Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia