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Ultrasonic foetal heart monitor, England, 1973-1978

An ultrasonic foetal heart monitor listens to the baby’s heartbeat within the mother’s womb. Monitoring techniques have been introduced into common hospital obstetric practice since the 1960s. The foetus and, during labour, the activity of the uterus were continuously monitored. Monitoring machines such as this enabled hospitals to actively manage pregnancy and labour. Critics suggested such monitoring resulted in childbirth becoming highly medicalised and hospital-based for many women. The model D205 Ultrasonic foetal heart monitor was made by Sonicaid Limited during the 1970s.

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Glossary: obstetrics

A branch of medicine dealing with the care of women. This care occurs during pregnancy, childbirth, and the period of recovery from childbirth.

Glossary: cardiology

The study of diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels.

Glossary: foetal monitor

Any piece of equipment used to monitor the foetus to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Glossary: foetal heart rate monitoring

Measuring the heart rate of the foetus during childbirth is important in modern, medicalised childbirth. The changing beats per minute rate is detected via an electronic foetal heart monitor. The rate can be observed during the birthing process and may prompt medical intervention.