Association of Fetal Heart Rate Baseline Change and Neonatal Outcomes

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The objective of this study was to describe the incidence of baseline change within normal range during labor and its prediction of neonatal outcomes.

Materials and Methods

This was a prospective cohort of singleton, nonanomalous, term neonates with continuous electronic fetal monitoring and normal baseline fetal heart rate throughout the last 2 hours of labor. We determined baseline in 10-minute segments using Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development criteria. We evaluated baseline changes of ≥ 20 and ≥ 30 bpm for association with acidemia (umbilical cord arterial pH ≤ 7.10) and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission. Finally, we performed a sensitivity analysis of normal neonates, excluding those with acidemia, NICU admission, or 5-minute Apgar < 4.


Among all neonates (n = 3,021), 1,267 (41.9%) had change ≥ 20 bpm; 272 (9.0%) had ≥ 30 bpm. Among normal neonates (n = 2,939), 1,221 (41.5%) had change ≥20 bpm. Acidemia was not associated with baseline change of any direction or magnitude. NICU admission was associated with decrease ≥ 20 bpm (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 2.93; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.19 - 7.21) or any direction ≥ 20 bpm (aOR: 4.06; 95% CI: 1.46-11.29). For decrease ≥ 20 bpm, sensitivity and specificity were 40.0 and 81.7%; for any direction ≥ 20 bpm, 75.0 and 58.3%.


Changes of normal baseline are common in term labor and poorly predict morbidity, regardless of direction or magnitude.

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