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Procedure: Foetal Scalp Blood Examination

A technique of sampling blood from the foetal scalp in order to confirm foetal hypoxia . The acid-base status of the blood is examined, especially the pH (pH of 7.25 or more is normal, pH of 7.20 or less denotes acidosis, values inbetween denotes pre-acidotic range and repeated estimation is indicated), usually following the detection of abnormal foetal heartrates . On the basis of such tests, a doctor may allow labour to continue or decide to perform a caesarean section immediately. There are some doubts about the representativeness of such a blood sample, but nevertheless the method has proven its value in clinical use, especially in combination with foetal heart rate monitoring . The drawbacks of this technique are that it is resource-intensive, expensive, invasive, time-consuming, cumbersome, and uncomfortable for the woman and can occasionally result in trauma, infection and possibly pain for the foetus.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Care in Normal Birth: A Practical Guide. Report of a Technical Working Group, World Health Organisation, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, 1999.

Other HON resources 
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Foetal Scalp Blood Examination
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Fetal Anoxia

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Fetal Anoxia


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Contact Last modified: Jun 25 2002