(fetal heart rate monitoring and ultrasound)
One of the challenges in obstetrics is to figure out, from our vantage point on the outside, how the fetus is faring on the inside. Specifically, we would like to know whether the placenta is doing its job transferring oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Regularly taking umbilical cord blood samples from the fetus is impractical and has risks, so we rely on less invasive, indirect methods of assessment. The two methods most often used are fetal heart rate monitoring and ultrasound. Fetal heart rate monitoring is the most common method for screening for evidence of fetal compromise. Ultrasound allows us to assess fetal anatomy and organ development, as well as estimate fetal weight and evaluate growth. Used in a different way, it also gives information on whether the fetus is receiving adequate oxygen.