Should women be given a choice about fetal assessment in labor?

MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2003 Sep-Oct;28(5):292-8; quiz 299-300. doi: 10.1097/00005721-200309000-00004.


Continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) in labor is one of the most commonly used interventions during intrapartum care. However, randomized controlled trials, observational studies, and meta-analyses about the use of continuous EFM on low-risk intrapartum patients have found no significant differences in infant outcomes between infants whose mothers had EFM or intermittent auscultation (IA) of the fetal heart rate. In addition, research shows a higher incidence of cesarean birth when EFM is used. Although evidence-based practice is supposed to be our goal, the evidence about the lack of efficacy of EFM has not been used in practice. In fact, EFM has become the standard of practice in this country. Considering these facts, should EFM continue to be the standard of practice for low-risk laboring women? Is informed consent indicated, giving women the choice between EFM and IA? Should IA be offered to all low-risk laboring women? Ethical decision-making models are used to examine those questions and to help nurses better delineate their advocacy role.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auscultation
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Fetal Monitoring / ethics*
  • Fetal Monitoring / nursing
  • Fetal Monitoring / psychology*
  • Fetal Monitoring / standards
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Informed Consent / psychology*
  • Models, Nursing
  • Nurse's Role
  • Obstetric Nursing / ethics
  • Obstetric Nursing / standards
  • Patient Advocacy / ethics
  • Patient Participation / psychology*
  • Patient Selection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Principle-Based Ethics
  • Virtues