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Fetal Blood Testing

Fetal Blood Testing

Alternate Names

  • fetal scalp blood
  • fetal scalp sampling


Fetal scalp blood testing involves the examination of a blood sample from a baby's scalp vein. It is done while the mother is in labor.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Fetal scalp blood testing measures the oxygen to the baby's scalp during labor. This can be an indicator of the delivery of oxygen to the unborn child's brain and can help determine if it is safe to continue labor.
A fetal scalp blood test can also used to check the baby's platelet count. This measures the clotting ability of the baby's blood.

How is the procedure performed?

The woman in labor lies on her back or side with her knees bent. Her cervix, or uterine opening, should be at least 3 centimeters dilated. A small round cone is inserted into the vagina. It is placed into the dilated cervix and against the baby's scalp.
The baby's scalp is cleaned to prevent contamination. A small cut or nick is then made in the scalp. Fetal blood is extracted through a long tube placed at the site of the cut.
This sample is immediately analyzed to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. The acid level, or pH, and carbon dioxide content of the blood can also be checked. A low blood pH level indicates that the baby is getting too little oxygen.
The baby's platelet count can also be measured.

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