Checking your baby during labour

The doctor or midwife will keep a constant check on your baby during labour.

They will check the baby’s heartbeat and any other signs that the baby might not be well. The level of monitoring will depend on your medical history, whether there are any problems with your baby or whether there are any expected problems with the birth. Monitoring can be done in a number of ways.


The midwife or doctor places an ear trumpet (pinards) or a doppler on you abdomen and listens to the baby’s heartbeat through your abdomen.

Continuous external monitoring

An electronic monitor is attached to a belt around your abdomen. The monitor continuously records the baby’s heartbeat and any contractions on a paper printout.  Some monitors restrict your movement. If this concerns you, ask if there’s one available that lets you move around.

Internal monitoring

An electronic monitor is attached to a probe which is connected to the baby’s head though your vagina. It is only used if the quality of the external monitoring is poor.

Fetal scalp lactate

A few drops of blood are taken from your baby’s scalp (like a pinprick). It gives an immediate result on the baby’s condition in labour. Doctors use this test when they need to get more information than they can get from continuous heart rate monitoring. The result will show if the baby needs to born immediately.


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