Background There is very little recent evidence regarding the use of telemetry to continuously monitor the fetal heart in labour, and no information about its current use within UK maternity units. An invitation was sent to all Heads of Midwifery in the UK to complete an on-line survey about telemetry use in their units.
Results The response rate was 60% (101/168 units) and 61% of responding units had at least one telemetry machine. 50% who did not have any telemetry were planning on purchasing some in the next 6 months. The majority of units with telemetry (90%) do not collect any data on its use. Telemetry was mostly used for women having had a previous caesarean section, post-dates induction of labour, meconium liquor and with a raised BMI. The three main outcomes that respondents felt were most likely to be influenced by telemetry were mobility in labour (32%), satisfaction with labour experience (29%) and reduction in the use of pharmacological pain relief (12%). The main themes to emerge from free text comments were that telemetry enabled women with risk factors to have similar choices as lower risk women but also that many units found there were intermittent problems with the machines and that telemetry was not always fully utilised by staff.
Conclusion Further research is necessary to understand the effect of telemetry, compared with conventional monitoring, on labour outcomes focusing on both women’s and midwives’ experiences of its use in labour.
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