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Electronic Fetal Monitoring May Lead To Unnecessary C-Section

A recent study concluded that fetal monitoring may lead doctors to perform a C-section procedure before it is medically necessary - likely putting mothers and infants at risk of dangerous complications. While fetal monitoring probably still plays an important role in delivery rooms, this study suggests that doctors need to back away from relying on them to make C-section decisions.

Fetal monitoring is supposed to look at the infant's vital statistics during labor to watch for indications of distress. The goal is to spot conditions like hypoxia before they can cause brain damage or even worse consequences.

According to this study of 11 separate controlled trials, however, fetal monitoring offered few advantages. None of the trials showed any benefit over standard care. In this context, we have to look at fetal monitoring poses any risks. The study found that physicians are more likely to order a C-section procedure if a fetal monitor indicates any cause for concern whatsoever. 

Although C-section should always be performed when indications place the delivery in "category III," fetal monitoring often leads doctors to perform them in just "category II." Of course, no mother wants to take chances when delivering - but doctors know that C-sections can cause unexpected and dangerous consequences down the road.

It is important for them to make appropriate C-section decisions - an unnecessary procedure with dangerous potential complications can be a very bad decision.

Source: MedPage Today, "Fetal Monitoring Often Tips Scales Toward Cesarean," Crystal Phend, Feb. 14, 2013

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