Shame on the companies who sell fetal diagnostic equipment to the lay public in the name of profit! They should be hung upside down and left to dry. The New York Times article, The Risk of Home Fetal Heart Monitors (by Tara Parker-Pope) tells a precautionary tell of a woman who purchased a fetal home monitor and then ended up with a dead baby.

The patient was a 34-year-old first-time pregnant mom living in Britain who had an uneventful pregnancy until 38 weeks. She had a home fetal monitor and unfortunately used it after she did not feel her baby moving. To her untrained ear, she thought the sounds from the fetal monitor were normal and was falsely reassured. She did not consult her physician immediately and when she did, an ultrasound confirmed a fetal demise.

The article generated 28 comments, most challenging the “validity” of the fetal monitoring process. Here’s the issue: anyone (both lay or professional) who thinks a fetal monitor is not helpful does not know how to interpret the fetal tracing. Period. Flat tracings, variable and late decelerations speak volumes regarding the oxygenation status of the fetus. Babies can’t tell us when they need to be delivered but they give us profound clues. Unfortunately, these clues are often ignored or misinterpreted with egregious consequences.  This is the very reason that I included the topic of fetal tracings in my book, The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy AND provided pictures of normal and abnormal fetal tracings. As a patient, you need to be empowered to recognize abnormal fetal patterns in the event that someone else doesn’t. 

There are women who believe that they have a “right” to purchase a fetal monitor because it’s “their body.” Well, let me say this: if the machines’ manufacturers did not provide instructions on how to diagnose fetal bradycardia, fetal tachycardia, variable decelerations, fetal arrhythmias or ectopic beats, then PLEASE do not be reassured by the sounds that you hear. What appears to be “simple” quite often isn’t.

A fetal monitor is not a toy and in the untrained hands, deadly. If you do not feel your baby move after one or two hours, please call your obstetrical practitioner immediately!

“A healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.”