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Foetal monitor, United States of America, 1985-1995

A foetal monitor is used to listen to a baby’s heartbeat, both while it is still in the mother’s womb and during birth. This series 50IP foetal monitor was made by Hewlett Packard Company during the 1990s. It produced a paper printout of cardiac activity, thereby allowing physicians to monitor foetal health. The foetus and, during labour, the activity of the uterus are continuously monitored. These monitoring techniques have been introduced into hospital obstetric practice since about the 1960s. Machines such as this have enabled hospitals to actively manage pregnancy and labour. They have also been portrayed as symbolic of what some critics see as the excessive medicalisation of childbirth.

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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: 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.