Uterine activity monitoring during labor

Petra C.A.M. Bakker, Suzanne Van Rijsiwijk, Herman P. Van Geijn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Aim: To summarize the currently available knowledge on (1) the methods to monitor uterine activity (UA); (2) the units to quantify UA; and (3) to assess the importance of abnormal contraction patterns on the condition of the fetus. The need for correct assessment and interpretation of the uterine contraction curve to improve fetal outcome will be emphasized. Study results: Correct assessment of the uterine contraction curve is an essential part of the cardiotocogram and should be obtained by the best method available; i.e., internal tocography (IT). IT provides objective information on quantization of UA and has the ability to obtain a good quality trace in an obese, restless patient. Accurate information on UA is essential because elevated UA during the first and second stage of labor can increase the risk of adverse fetal outcome. The relaxation time appears to be an important contraction parameter to maintain fetal well-being during labor. Almost all abnormal contraction patterns are characterized by shortening of the relaxation time and can lead to severe asphyxia. Duration, amplitude and frequency of contractions are of importance as well. The mean active pressure unit is the means to quantify UA since it incorporates these three contraction parameters. Conclusion: Proper application of UA monitoring by means of the internal method and adequate reading and interpretation of the uterine contraction curve is a prerequisite for high quality electronic fetal heart rate monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-477
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Perinatal Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007

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