Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Measuring Babies' Oxygen Level During Labor May Lower Cesarean Rates

WebMD Health News

Feb. 3, 2000 (Miami) -- Cesarean deliveries are often done when the fetus is in distress during birth. Now a new device detects the amount of oxygen the fetus is receiving during labor and may help cut in half the rate of cesareans, according to Gary A. Dildy, MD, speaking here at a meeting of maternal-fetal medicine specialists. An FDA panel has recommended that the device be approved for use.

"Knowing the fetus' oxygen [level] takes some guesswork out of deciding whether to perform a cesarean vs. letting the labor progress," Dildy tells WebMD. He is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City.

Monitoring the heart rate of the baby is an indirect way to assess the amount of oxygen in the blood, co-author Thomas J. Garite, MD, tells WebMD. This new device, which uses technology called pulse oximetry, assesses oxygen levels directly, according to Garite. Garite is a co-author of the study and professor and chair of obstetrics-gynecology at the University of California, Irvine.

The pulse oximetry device, known as the N-400, is placed through the cervix during labor. This device, which lies between the cheek of the fetus and the wall of the uterus, measures blood oxygen levels with a sensor that contains red and infrared light. The sensor is connected to a monitor that displays the fetus' current blood oxygen levels. Because of the risk of the device scratching the fetus' face, the device is not used if the mother is HIV-positive, as this would increase the chance of HIV being transmitted to the fetus.

The women in whom the device would be used are those who have already had fetal heart rate results that are considered nonreassuring. Although nonreassuring results are often false alarms, they are disconcerting to both the expectant parents and the physician and are typically a rationale for cesareans in which fetal distress is suspected.

In the current study, Dildy says there were 50% fewer cesareans performed for nonreassuring fetal status with the addition of the new device, compared to the women in which the device was not used. However, nonreassuring fetal status often results in difficult labor regardless, usually because of fetal size. Therefore, the group of women that used the device still had a larger than normal number of cesareans.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
healthtool pregnancy calendar
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy