Changing Perspectives of Electronic Fetal Monitoring

Mark I. Evans, David W. Britt, Shara M. Evans, Lawrence D. Devoe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The delivery of healthy babies is the primary goal of obstetric care. Many technologies have been developed to reduce both maternal and fetal risks for poor outcomes. For 50 years, electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) has been used extensively in labor attempting to prevent a large proportion of neonatal encephalopathy and cerebral palsy. However, even key opinion leaders admit that EFM has mostly failed to achieve this goal. We believe this situation emanates from a fundamental misunderstanding of differences between screening and diagnostic tests, considerable subjectivity and inter-observer variability in EFM interpretation, failure to address the pathophysiology of fetal compromise, and a tunnel vision focus. To address these suboptimal results, several iterations of increasingly sophisticated analyses have intended to improve the situation. We believe that part of the continuing problem is that the focus of EFM has been too narrow ignoring important contextual issues such as maternal, fetal, and obstetrical risk factors, and increased uterine contraction frequency. All of these can significantly impact the application of EFM to intrapartum care. We have recently developed a new clinical approach, the Fetal Reserve Index (FRI), contextualizing EFM interpretation. Our data suggest the FRI is capable of providing higher accuracy and earlier detection of emerging fetal compromise. Over time, artificial intelligence/machine learning approaches will likely improve measurements and interpretation of FHR characteristics and other relevant variables. Such future developments will allow us to develop more comprehensive models that increase the interpretability and utility of interfaces for clinical decision making during the intrapartum period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1874-1894
Number of pages21
JournalReproductive Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Computerized electronic fetal monitoring
  • Electronic fetal monitoring
  • Fetal Reserve Index
  • Screening tests


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