Prof Dr Harald Abele
Deputy Medical Director at Universitäts-Frauenklinik Tübingen, Germany, and full member of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tübingen
Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran
Professor Emeritus at St George’s University of London, UK
Senior Director of the Women & Children’s Service Line, UCHealth in northern Colorado, USA
Dr Deborah Fox
Lecturer in Midwifery at the University of Technology Sydney, and Member of the Scientific Review Advisory Committee of the Australian College of Midwives
2018 marks 50 years since the launch of the first commercially available non-invasive fetal monitor, developed in collaboration between Professor Konrad Hammacher and HP Medical, now part of Philips. Since then, we have played an active part in shaping trends in obstetrical care – a field that has evolved beyond our imagination.
As part of our celebrations to mark this historic anniversary, we invited clinical opinion leaders from around the world to share their perspectives on the developments they have witnessed in obstetrical care. In this post – the first in a two-part series – our expert panel discusses the role of technology in obstetrical care, and considers how the labor experience has evolved from the mother’s point of view.
Q: How have technological advances changed the way you work?
Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I think that obstetricians have been greatly assisted by advances in fetal and maternal monitoring technology. Compared to when I first entered obstetrics, the clinician is now better placed to reassure the mother by promptly detecting and monitoring issues that could arise.
Technology has helped mothers, too – by allowing them to choose what is most comfortable for them. If the mother wants to get into the pool, for instance, we can use waterproof transducers so that she can still be monitored without any difficulty.
Suzanne Ketchem: When I began my career as an obstetrical nurse 35 years ago, childbirth was considered a medical procedure. Back then, the patient was admitted to a sparsely decorated labor room with only a bed, night stand and clock. Patients were only allowed to ambulate to the bathroom, and only one support person – usually the father – could be in the room with them during labor.
Today, it’s a completely different story. Mothers and their babies are monitored using palpation and auscultation or electronic maternal/fetal surveillance throughout labor and we can keep a closer eye on them – even when we’re not physically in the room. Additionally, moms are encouraged to move around as often as they desire, take a bath, and assume whichever position is comfortable for them. And because of the incredible advances in technology, we can still monitor them continuously.