While electronic fetal monitors are commonly used in the hospital for high risk and low risk patients, there are alternatives to this form of fetal monitoring. Patients who are having a hospital birth but who are low risk or women having home births or birth center births should ask their doctor or midwife about these forms of low risk monitoring:
Dopplers are the same hand held devices used at many of the prenatal visits women have during pregnancy. It is a small device that uses ultrasounds to project your baby's heart rate. While there are various types of Dopplers available, these can be used in any birth setting, including water births if the unit is water proof.
A fetoscope is a special type of stethoscope used to listen to your baby's heart rate without using ultrasound or any electronics. The midwives and doctors who use them are able to hear the baby's heart rate just as you would with a stethoscope. This is called auscultation.
This form of fetal monitoring is approved for low risk women by the American College of OB/GYNs. In fact, some say that it is much more accurate than the mechanical forms of electronic monitoring simply because you have to have a human on the other end to interpret the data.
Talk to your doctor or midwife about what type of monitoring they normally use and which is best for you and your baby in labor.