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Fetal Monitoring: Fetal Heart Minimal Variability

The goal is always a healthy, happy baby!

This strip demonstrates decreased variability. Experience with fetal monitoring and fetal outcomes allows labor & delivery caregivers to declare the importance variability, which is the variance of the heart rate from the baby’s baseline.

In this instance, the baby’s baseline heart rate is about 150 (upper strip), which is fine, but there are five beats or less per minute variance. You can hardly see the heart rate varying at all – it almost looks like “flat line.” Of course, it’s not, but it is not beating with a variance of 6 to 25 beats per minute, which suggests stress or distress, and caregivers may need to do something about it. Midwives, nurses and doctors call this decreased variability.

While decreased variability may indicate fetal distress, it can also mean that the baby is sleeping. Usually, this can be ruled out by stimulating the fetal scalp. If the baby wakes up and the heart rate starts to beat with a variance of six to twenty-five beats per minute, we’re good to go. If it doesn’t, re-assessment is necessary.

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The full-length YouTube video on the entire third segment:  Fetal Monitoring: Fetal Heart Rate can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdLX0lM2m-c&t=26s