Fetal Monitoring: Fetal Heart Rate Increased Variability

February 3, 2019

Striving for a healthy, happy delivery – the essence of fetal surveillance during labor & delivery.

Illustrated above is a fetal monitor strip showing what may be the early signs of fetal distress. First, focus your attention on the upper portion of the strip. This is the fetal heart. The variation in rate is extreme (at least 5 to 30 beats per minute between the 120 and 150 overall rate). This signals possible fetal stress if not fetal distress. Nurses, midwives and doctors call this increased variability and patterns similar to the one shown here cause concern for fetal well-being.

You’ll remember from Part One, contractions occurring more often than every 2 minutes or sooner may cause fetal distress. Now, draw your attention to the bottom portion. Those wave-like lines are the mother’s uterine contractions. And, as you can see in this strip, the uterine contractions appear to be quite intense; but more importantly, they occur more often than every two minutes. Something is not quite right.

So, what we have here is a composite reflection of fetal heart and uterine activity suggesting something untoward is going on. Something is increasing the frequency of uterine contractions (and possibly contraction intensity) that in turn appears to be causing significant fetal distress. Increased variability alerts labor & delivery personnel to evaluate for additional signs and symptoms, intervening as  appropriate to correct the underlying cause and ensure a healthy, happy outcome.

Watch for my next fetal monitoring installments during which I discuss fetal heart rate decelerations.  And don’t forget to subscribe to Be Healthy! Be Happy! News.

This is Dr. Jim. Power your path to happiness!

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