Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring with CTG
‘Cardiotocography’, more commonly referred to as a ‘CTG trace’, is a means of measuring a fetus’ heart rate and uterine contractions before and during labour. The CTG machine attaches with two sensors on the mother’s stomach, and produces a continuous printout of the baby’s heart rate and contractions. This allows hospital staff to monitor the health of the baby and determine whether any action needs to be taken to ensure the baby’s safety.
A CTG will generally only be applied prior to active labour where hospital staff have identified a change in the mother’s condition which could affect the status of the baby, or during labour where there are identified risk factors which may result in injury to the baby. Studies have shown that providing CTG tracing on all admissions can cause in increase in caesarean deliveries, so it is not recommended that they are used when there are not risk factors present.
CTG monitoring is important as it gives a continuous, up-to-date record of the baby’s health before it is delivered. If the baby’s heart rate is too high or too low, it is a sign that the baby may be in some form of distress and further care may be required. This allows any potential health problems to be identified immediately and for appropriate action to be taken.
The four important features of a CTG trace are the contractions, the baseline heart rate, the variability and any acceleration or deceleration. Each feature has a reassuring data range, a non-reassuring range, and an abnormal range.
Where the four features are in the reassuring range, this is considered a normal CTG and no further action will be required.
Where one or more of the features tested are non-reassuring, this is considered to be a suspicious trace and further testing may be required to determine whether the baby is in distress.
When the CTG features are in an abnormal range, this is deemed to be a pathological trace and care should be escalated as it may be necessary to expedite delivery.
CTG monitoring allows hospital staff to identify babies at risk of injury and to act swiftly to deliver those babies who are showing signs of distress, so as to prevent injury or further injury from occurring.
It is important to note that hospital staff should explain the purpose of fetal heart rate monitoring and obtain your verbal consent before commencing any monitoring.
We have conducted many cases over the years where a failure to properly monitor or to even begin fetal heart rate surveillance has contributed to the injuries suffered by the baby. The CTG trace itself is not usually the main causal factor in such a case, but the negligence in failing to identify and respond to any warning signs evident on the CTG trace is often a key issue raised in cases where serious birth trauma has occurred.
Legal issues which arise in this area include questions about whether:
- The CTG trace was adequately monitored and suspicious signs identified.
- Appropriate action was taken once a suspicious or pathological trace was identified.
- Appropriate action was taken in a timely manner, once a suspicious or pathological trace was identified.
How can we help?
If you are looking for information or help in relation to issues surrounding fetal heart rate monitoring, we can help you navigate the process. Our health law team is highly respected in the area, with specialist knowledge accumulated over 30 years.
Our team can assist you by providing expert advice and legal support regarding your options. Contact us today on (02) 4929 3995 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The material provided in our information sheets is for general knowledge only and is not a substitute for independent legal advice. For further information about the issues affecting you, please contact one of our experienced and professional lawyers for expert advice.