EFM (Variable Decelerations)

  • Variable decelerations can occur at any time during or between contractions, and are usually characterized by “shoulders” before and sometimes after the deceleration.
  • The decelerations are usually “V” or “U”-shaped and return to baseline within two minutes or less.
  • Variable decelerations are due to head or cord compression and are “treated” by changing the mother’s position and applying oxygen.
  • Unless very deep (<60 bpm) for extended periods (>2 minutes or more), they are considered benign.
  • Variable decelerations occur during the second stage of most labors, as the fetal head moves down the narrow vaginal canal and is compressed by a combination of the uterine contractions and the narrow vagina.

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