But, when looking at the data for just the final two hours of delivery, the numbers changed. The data show that category I rates decreased to 61%, while category II rates increased to 39%, and category III rates increased to 0.006%.
As for outcomes, babies that spent the entire time in category I scored well. Five minutes after birth, only 0.6 percent had Apgar scores of less than seven. Apgar is a system for determining a newborn's health using a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being the healthiest. Only 0.2 percent required admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. Category III fetal heart rates were very uncommon, occurring in only 0.1 percent of the patients studied, and resulted in admission to the NICU about half the time.
Category II fetal heart rate patterns showed up most often, occurring in 84 percent of all labors. They also found that the amount of time spent in category II increased in the two hours before delivery. This also coincided with lower Apgar scores and increased admissions to the NICU.
Regardless of those statistics, the vast majority of category II babies had no short-term problems after delivery. This means that using category II heart rate patterns as an indicator of fetal health is an unreliable method, researchers say.
Without a good map to guide them during those critical hours, doctors and nurses must play a guessing game one that will almost always spur them to act with caution possibly ordering a C-section delivery when it might not be necessary.
"Our next step, obviously, is to sort out those patterns in Category II to determine which ones are more predictive of a baby that's sick and one that's healthy," says Dr. Jackson. "When we know that, we will be able to make better decisions for both the mother and her baby."
Dr. Jackson and his team are currently examining the data on
|Contact: Jess C. Gomez|
Intermountain Medical Center