Fetal scalp sampling is a procedure for taking a small amount of blood from a baby's scalp during labor. It may help your healthcare provider know if your baby is getting enough oxygen.
During labor, a fetal monitor may be used to check the baby's heart rate. If the baby's heart rate is not normal, your healthcare provider may want to test the baby's blood to see if the baby is getting enough oxygen.
If your cervix is not dilated or if the baby isn't positioned right, it may not be possible to do the test.
You lie on your back or on your side with your top leg bent up at the knee. Your healthcare provider inserts a small round cone into your vagina to move the cervix out of the way so he or she can see the baby's head.
Your provider cleans the baby's scalp, makes a slight nick in the skin, and catches a small amount of blood in a tube.
The pH level of the blood in the sample is tested. The pH shows how much acid is in the baby’s blood. Sometimes, if the baby is not getting enough oxygen, there may be more acid in the baby’s blood and so the baby’s pH may be lower than normal. If the pH is low, your baby may not be doing well in labor. The test can help your healthcare provider decide whether to allow labor to continue or to deliver the baby right away. If labor does continue, another sample of blood from the scalp may be tested later.
Scalp sampling helps your healthcare provider see if the baby is doing well during labor or if the baby needs to be delivered right away.
There is a risk of bleeding or infection for the baby. However, this is rare.