During the birthing process, a lack of oxygen to the baby can cause serious brain injuries or fatalities. It is important that doctors gather as much information as possible about the oxygen levels in the infant’s blood if there is any indication that the baby is not receiving sufficient oxygen.
If the medical staff fails to identify this type of fetal distress they may not take available actions such as conducting a c-section in a timely manner.
Physicians can test fetal blood by obtaining a sample from the baby’s scalp during the birthing process. They may also attach an electrode to the scalp as part of method to determine the fetal heart rate.
While monitoring the heart rate is important it may not always provide all of the information necessary to ensure that all the proper steps are taken to protect the health and life of the baby. Inaccurate or inconclusive information from fetal heart monitors can also lead to unnecessary interventions.
Researchers are exploring new methods for accurately monitoring fetal blood oxygen levels. One new system uses similar technology to blood oxygen sensors used for adults and older children. These are sensors which are placed against the skin and actually test the color of the blood itself to determine the oxygen level.
Advancing obstetric technology provides doctors with an ever increasing tool box to help reduce the risk to infants and mothers. The expertise and care of the doctor is still critical to the process. If the doctor is unfamiliar with when to use these various tools or is negligent in interpreting the data that they provide.
Source: OBGYN.net “A Case for Fetal Oxygen Monitoring” July 26, 2011