Knowing the Heart's Rhythms

Fetal heart rate monitoring may reduce risk of infant mortality

(RxWiki News) Monitoring the heart rate of a fetus may reduce the risk of death among infants, according to new research.

Some studies have examined the effectiveness of fetal heart rate monitors in reducing the risk of death. However, none of these studies used large enough data sets to draw convincing conclusions. As such, many obstetricians have been concerned that fetal heart rate monitors became an accepted technology before there was sufficient evidence that they were useful.

In order to address these concerns, Suneet P. Chauhan, M.D., and colleagues conducted a substantially larger study to assess the effectiveness of fetal heart rate monitors. Using data from the National Birth Cohort, the researchers analyzed 1,945,789 singleton (non-twin) infant birth and death records.

In 2004, electronic fetal heart rate monitoring was used in 89 percent of singleton pregnancies. Electronic fetal heart rate monitoring reduced the risk of death among newborns by 53 percent. What's more, the technology reduced the risk of seizures among newborns from high-risk pregnancies.

Every year, an estimated four million infants die in the first 28 days of life. Premature births are the main cause of death among newborns. However, other factors - such as infections, congenital diseases, and placental infarction - also cause many health problems and deaths among newborns.

The results of this study were recently presented at The Pregnancy Meeting™, the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

Review Date: 
February 14, 2011