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New Technology at Cape Coral Hospital Family Birth Suites Delivers Safer Childbirths

Children's Health
Author name: Lee Health


In 1895, French obstetrician Adolph Pinard invented the fetoscope that bears his name. The Pinard horn is a trumpet-shaped tube made of wood that when pressed against the belly of a pregnant woman, amplifies the sound of an unborn child’s heartbeat to the listener at the other end of the instrument.

Many developing countries and midwives in Europe still use the Pinard horn to monitor fetal heart rate and sounds. But at Cape Coral Hospital Family Birth Suites, pregnant mothers benefit from a different sort of fetal monitoring system that rethinks traditional delivery of maternity healthcare.

Last year, the hospital introduced a fetal surveillance and documentation system that monitors fetal heart rate throughout the birthing process, from prenatal through post-natal labor.

This innovative technology balances “high-touch” human response – so vital in preserving the natural elements of childbirth – with the benefits of “high-tech” as needed, helping to ensure a healthy and safe childbirth experience.

According to Sara Harris, RN, obstetrics and clinical educator, this fetal surveillance system incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) into the monitoring. Staff observes the monitors throughout a patient’s labor, but this technology also indicates labor patterns that might require more interventions or an expedited birth delivery.

“It’s a vital, new tool for our maternity team and patients,” Harris says. “But it doesn’t replace our providers’ expertise in interpreting what the strip reveals. It does increase the safety we provide to our patients.”

A key feature of the system allows nurses to watch the fetal heart rate in “real-time.” A history of previous fetal heart rate tracings, the system’s documentation feature, can be viewed, too.

“The system gives us an instant view of the mother and baby’s status along with trends over time,” Harris explains. “This unique feature allows us to monitor for potential signs of fetal distress, and thus we can intervene before a possible issue develops.”

Harris says that when a mother in labor arrives at the birthing unit, she’s placed on a fetal monitor during her initial assessment, as well as throughout the rest of her labor.

“Our staff continuously monitors the fetal heart rate and the uterine contractions. Our providers can see the fetal heart rate strip from their phone or tablet when called away from the birthing unit,” Harris says. “We always know what’s going on with our patients. This allows our maternity team to work together when developing a plan of care for every patient, as well as communicate quickly when an emergency might arise.”

How is an external electronic fetal monitoring performed?

A pair of belts are placed around the mother’s abdomen. One belt uses Doppler to detect the fetal heart rate. The other belt measures the length of contractions and the time between them.

Harris says that another benefit of the new technology is that information can be recorded and stored in the patient’s electronic health record, allowing for a more detailed patient history that helps inform treatment planning.

“What’s really important about our fetal monitoring system is that it’s painless and noninvasive,” Harris notes. “We also have the option for wireless monitoring with some of our patients, which allows greater freedom for movement in labor.”

She says staff works diligently with every woman in labor to keep them moving because evidence shows that increasing movement during labor benefits both mom and baby.

Personalized maternal healthcare remains

Harris says that while the fetal surveillance and documentation system is new technology, maternal caregiving remains the old-fashioned way at CCH: up close and personal.

“Our staff is still at the bedside, assessing and supporting patients just as often as they were before the pandemic,” Harris explains. “We don’t rely on the benefits of technology to replace bedside care. We continue to strictly follow the infection control practices for hospitalized pregnant patients, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Harris says the balance between “high-touch and high-tech” is the vision of Carol Lawrence, R.N., and Nancy Travis, R.N., who lead the project.

Cape Coral Hospital is unique in women’s care

Cape Coral Hospital is the only hospital in Southwest Florida that offers single-room maternity care in which a mother stays in one suite throughout her stay in the hospital. The hospital practices a family centered birth experience.

Mothers have access to the tools to help them with a low-intervention birth, including birth balls, tubs for labor, nitrous oxide and aromatherapy. 

The Family Birth Suites include beautifully appointed suites with a tub. Birthing balls are available for use in labor, and a high-tech fetal monitoring system allows you to be up and walking during labor. Cape Coral Hospital staff encourages new parents to enjoy the Golden Hour with their newborn where mother and baby enjoy skin-to-skin time in the first hour after birth.

Cape Coral Hospital also is the home of the Gentle Cesarean, where the mother gets to experience skin-to-skin with her healthy newborn right in the operating room. Many of our babies breastfeed right from the start.

Tour the Family Birth Suites at Cape Coral Hospital

See for yourself the amenities of our welcoming, family oriented environment. Click here.

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