Electronic monitoring equipment improves detection and recording of fetal heart activity and uterine contractions. Fetal heart rate is one indicator of the well-being of the fetus; altered cardiac rate may indicate impairment of the maternal-placenta-fetal circulation or hypoxia with potential fetal damage or stillbirth. Antepartum monitoring of the fetal heart can screen the fetus with low-reserve who may be at risk during labor. Continuous intrapartum monitoring may portend fetal jeopardy early enough for treatment or intervention. Despite substantial decline in perinatal and neonatal mortality and morbidity, direct cause-and-effect relationship to electronic fetal monitoring is questioned. Government agencies have been authorized to assess technology for cost-benefit and social impact.
(JAMA 244:682-686, 1980)