Medical Care During Labor and Delivery

The following are some of the more common medical procedures used at Saint Francis Medical Center during labor and delivery.

External Monitoring

External monitoring is used on the outside of your body. Two disks are placed on your abdomen. They may be held in place by belts, suction cups or a cloth binder that fits around your abdomen. One disk has a pressure gauge to pick up contractions; the other picks up your baby’s heartbeat by using sound waves. The disks have cords that connect to the fetal monitor.

Shortly after you arrive at the Saint Francis Family BirthPlace, a test strip using an external monitor will be done. If the tracing is within normal limits, the monitor is removed and will be applied again as labor progresses. You do not have to stay in one position when a monitor is used during your labor.

Internal Monitoring

Internal monitoring is used inside the uterus to monitor your baby’s heartbeat. A tiny spiral wire is attached to the part of your baby closest to the cervix, usually the head. This small wire is also used to monitor the contractions. A thin tube may be put inside the vagina and slipped into the uterus to measure the strength of the contractions.


An amniotomy is a painless way to break the bag of waters with a sterile instrument. It is done during a vaginal exam and is followed by a gush of warm fluid. This may make the labor contractions stronger, closer together, and may shorten labor.

Induced Labor

Induced labor is started artificially by:

  • Application of a cervical ripening agent
  • Doing an amniotomy
  • Giving an IV drug called Pitocin

There are several reasons why labor may be induced, including:

  • Certain medical conditions
  • One to two weeks past the due date
  • The bag of waters breaks but there are no contractions for 6–12 hours
  • Previous short labor

Augmentation of Labor

Sometimes slow progress in labor is aided by stimulating contractions using the IV drug Pitocin or breaking the bag of waters.


An episiotomy may be done to enlarge the vaginal opening. It is an incision made from the vagina toward the rectum. It is performed just before your baby is born.


Forceps are used to turn your baby and/or help bring your baby down the birth canal for the delivery. This instrument is guided into the vagina and is placed on either side of your baby’s head.

Vacuum Extractor

A vacuum extractor is a cap like device applied to your baby’s head. Suction is used to help move your baby down the birth canal. Your doctor adjusts the amount of suction.

Cord Blood Donation

For information on donating cord blood, please visit the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank Web site at