Labor and Delivery: A Technical Note

During labor, an external fetal monitor is used to record the baby’s heart rate and the uterine contractions. The sensors are placed on the mother’s belly. Later, during the pushing phase of labor, a sensor is connected to the baby’s head to record her heart rate more accurately, thus becoming an internal fetal monitor.

Older fetal monintors recorded these measurements on paper, graphing the fetal heart rate and contraction intensity over time. Nowadays, there is a paper output as well, but the main output device is a computer monitor. I was quite impressed and engrossed in the machine. In fact, I had a competition going on with Amber about who could predict the start of the contraction earlier, with her reliance on her senses and mine on the sensor data. Needless to say, I lost except when she was under the influence of the epidural anesthesia.

Considering the importance of the fetal monitor, I was surprised to find out that the computer was running Microsoft Windows. How did I find that out? You get one guess. Yes, the computer crashed during active labor. Amazing! The paper output continued working, but the computer which was being used to record show the monitor outputs from all labor rooms as well as to record doctor’s and nurse’s notes crashed and had to be restarted after a while.

As I mentioned before, the hospital recorded Michelle’s time of birth as 7:01pm while she was born at 6:57pm. I noted down the correct time from my watch which had been synchronized with atomic clock data just a few days ago. The hospital recorded the time that was on their computer (yes, the same one that crashed). It was 4 minutes too fast. I don’t know whether the hospital has heard of time servers and network time protocol, but it would do well to set up a time server computer on their LAN and then synchronize all computers’ clocks to the server.

Categorized as Pregnancy

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


  1. Fetal monitors are indeed amazing. They help us doctors keep a close check on the progress of labour and the well being of the fetus assuring the parents that evrything is going fine inthe ccritical moments.
    infact one of my friend who has this nack for technical stuff thought of making a monitor locally. dont know if he has succeded or not

  2. Ah Zack, you are an irrepressible techy. Sooner or later, I expect to see a post concerning the use of machine vision, vision processing and audio sensors to monitor Michelle’s crib. 🙂

  3. I’m surprised Amber didn’t throw the baby monitor at you when you suggested that they have a contest. “I’m about to have a baby, you fool!” hahahaha

  4. Moiz: Fetal monitors are definitely quite useful. It was because Michelle’s heart rate was going down below 100 near the end that the doctor did an episiotomy to get the baby out.

    CA: Had thought about it, but it’s not worth the effort in a 1-bed apt.

    HijabMan: Amber was quite gracious during most of labor. Epidural Zindabad!

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