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Interpretation of fetal heart rate

A large randomised controlled trial of women having continuous electronic fetal monitoring in labour in labour wards across England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland compared the outcomes for babies when midwives and doctors use computer software to support their decision-making about fetal heart monitoring information versus not using any such support.

The study found that computerised interpretation of the fetal heart rate in labour did not improve outcomes for babies in the neonatal period or at two years, compared to midwives /doctors looking at a trace of the heart rate without the help of computer analysis.

What might this mean for a woman whose midwife or doctor wish to use continuous fetal heart monitoring?

You may want to discuss with the clinicians how they will interpret the fetal heart monitoring data, if you need to have this done for part or all of your labour.


This section on the interpretation of fetal heart rate forms part of our Highlight on the Management of Labour which takes an evidence-based look at induction, pain relief, waterbirth and more . To read the Highlight in full click here. 

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