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Intrapartum electronic fetal heart rate (FHR) monitoring and fetal blood gas sampling were compared with periodic auscultation of FHR in a multicentered randomized trial of preterm singleton pregnancies with fetal weights of 700-1750 g. Two hundred forty-six pregnancies were studied (electronic FHR monitoring N = 122, auscultation N = 124). Perinatal or infant death was associated with 14% of pregnancies with electronic FHR monitoring and 15% with auscultation. No significant differences were noted in the prevalence of low five-minute Apgar scores, intrapartum acidosis, intracranial hemorrhage, or frequency of cesarean section (P > .10). Compared with electronic FHR monitoring, intrapartum auscultation as done in this study is unlikely to be associated with detectable differences in perinatal outcomes within the high-risk setting of preterm labor.

(C) 1987 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists