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Fetal Scalp Sampling

What is fetal scalp sampling?

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.

When is it used?

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.

What happens during fetal scalp sampling?

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.

What happens after fetal scalp sampling?

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.

What are the benefits of fetal scalp sampling?

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.

What are the risks of fetal scalp sampling?

There is a risk of bleeding or infection for the baby. However, this is rare.

Developed by Phyllis G. Cooper, RN, MN, and RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-07-06
Last reviewed: 2011-06-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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