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Ir Med J. 2007 Feb;100(2):360-2.

The use of intrapartum electronic fetal heart rate monitoring: a national survey.

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  • 1School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin.


This study describes the use of intrapartum electronic fetal monitoring in Ireland. Electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) has become routine in the assessment of fetal wellbeing during labour. Current evidence indicates that the routine use of EFM leads to an increased caesarean section and operative vaginal delivery rate and a reduction in the rate of neonatal seizures. Practices and service provision related to the use and interpretation of and educational provision for electronic fetal monitoring have not been investigated in Ireland. A national survey of all (n = 22) maternity units in Ireland was undertaken using a self-reported questionnaire amended, with permission, from that used in the 8th CESDI report. The questionnaire sought information on unit birth rate in 2002, number of cardiotocograph (CTG) monitors available in delivery units, use of the admission CTG, use of continuous EFM for women with various risk factors for pregnancy and/or labour, availability of fetal blood sampling facilities, use of umbilical cord blood sampling and availability of guidelines on the use of EFM. All units responded to the survey giving a national picture of the use of EFM during labour. All units had cardiotocograph (CTG) monitors available in the delivery area (median 6, range 3-14). An admission CTG was performed on all women by 96% (n=21) of units. Thirty six per cent of units (n=8) used continuous EFM routinely during labour in women who did not have risk factors for labour. Fetal blood sampling (FBS) was used in 36% (n=8) of units in cases of suspicious CTG tracings. Umbilical cord blood gases were sampled routinely following emergency caesarean section in 46% (n= 10) of units while 64% (n= 14) did so if the baby's condition was poor at birth. A departmental guideline on the use of EFM was available in 73% (n= 16) units. The findings of this survey indicate wide variations in the use of intrapartum EFM in Ireland. The use of continuous EFM for specific high-risk indications was variable and EFM was used by a third of units for women who did not have risk factors for labour. The admission CTG was used by 21 of the 22 units despite evidence of no benefit. The absence of FBS in the majority of units surveyed and the low rate of umbilical cord blood sampling is of concern.

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