Pregnancy Guide

Common Procedures During Childbirth

Most often labor and delivery proceeds with simple monitoring. But sometimes it needs a helping hand. Here are some common procedures used during childbirth:

Continuous fetal monitoring is a method to have your baby's well-being electronically continuously evaluated during delivery. This contrasts with the option in Iow-risk pregnancies of just monitoring/listening at intervals of 5-15 minutes. Most commonly continuous monitoring occurs by using an ultrasound transducer strapped over your abdomen to pick up the baby's heartbeat, which is continuously recorded on a paper strip. A second detector is then strapped to the top of your abdomen to record the frequency of your contractions. These two measurements give information that suggests how your baby is faring during labor.

An internal monitor can be used to record the fetal heart beat only after the bag of waters has broken and your cervix is sufficiently dilated. This may be used if the heart beat signal cannot be reliably traced using the external monitor. In such cases, a tiny, spiral-shaped electrode is inserted through your vagina and cervix onto your baby's scalp (a relatively harmless procedure).

Your baby also can be monitored by having a doctor, nurse or midwife listen at intervals of 5-15 minutes to the baby's heartbeat with hand held ultrasound equipment just like that used to listen to the heartbeat in the outpatient office.

Episiotomy is an incision (cut) in the area between the vagina and rectum with the goal of making more room for the delivering baby. In the past, obstetrical care providers often performed an episiotomy. Today, this procedure is not considered routine and rarely needs to be done.

Vacuum extraction is a technique in which a soft plastic device is used to apply suction to the top of the baby's head during delivery. The device resembles a small disc or ice cream cone. It may be used to assist in delivering the baby in the event of concern about fetal well-being or maternal exhaustion.

Forceps look like salad spoons and are medical instruments used to guide a baby's head out of the birth canal. Like vacuum extraction, forceps also can be used when the second phase of labor is unusually long, a mother is too tired to push further, or concern for a baby's well-being leads doctors to want to hasten delivery. The choice between using vacuum or forceps is usually one of provider preference and/or expertise.

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