Fans are finally getting to see some details of Khloé Kardashian's pregnancy and the birth of her daughter True. In a preview for an upcoming episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kardashian can be seen wearing an oxygen mask while in the delivery room, surrounded by family and friends.
At one point in the clip, Kardashian is seen talking through the mask when her sister Kylie Jenner FaceTimes with her. “What’s wrong with you?” Jenner asks. “I needed to get the baby’s oxygen back up,” Kardashian responds.
While some viewers—especially those who haven't given birth or been present for someone else's birth—may have been similarly concerned, no one in the room seemed overly alarmed by Kardashian’s oxygen mask, including the mom-to-be.
Although it might look a little alarming, it’s surprisingly common (and normal) for people to receive supplemental oxygen when they're in labor.
“Many people do at some point during the labor process,” Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a minimally invasive gynecologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF.
It’s standard practice for doctors to put a fetal heart monitor on your baby when you're delivering at a hospital. It can be monitored externally via a pair of belts wrapped around your abdomen, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) explains, or internally using an electrode placed on the part of the fetus that's closest to the cervix, most often the scalp. Either way, fetal heart rate monitoring is a pretty regular part of the process, especially is your pregnancy is considered high risk for any reason.
“That way we can know how well the baby is responding to labor,” Dr. Shepherd says. The baby's heart rate might change as it responds to things happening during labor, such as contractions. But if your or your baby's heart rate is abnormal, that could mean the baby isn't getting enough oxygen. If, after further testing, your doctors determine that's the case, supplemental oxygen is usually the next step.
In utero, your baby receives oxygen via the oxygen in your blood. So if supplemental oxygen is required, whether the issue is your heart rate or your baby's, you're the one that gets it, Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells SELF.
There are many reasons why your or your baby's heart rate might be a bit off at the hospital, so you don't need to panic if you end up needing an oxygen mask.
“It’s not a bad thing and doesn’t mean anything bad is happening to the baby,” Dr. Shepherd says. “But sometimes we want to do anything we can do to increase oxygenation at certain times during labor.”
Again, a baby’s heart rate can drop as a response to stress from the labor or contractions. If labor is induced, you might see a low heart rate because the medications used in labor induction can cause even more contractions, the Mayo Clinic explains. If you’re having a vaginal delivery, you may also be handed an oxygen mask when you’re pushing because it can stress the baby, Dr. Shepherd says.
The parent's heart rate can also drop as a response to stress from labor. It's also not uncommon for the parent's heart rate to go down in response to the epidural or anesthesia, Dr. Shepherd says. Depending on the type of pain management you receive, you may get medication that "decreases your blood oxygenation and decreases blood flow toward the baby,” she explains. Usually, you'll be monitored after an epidural to keep an eye on your heart rate and your baby's in case you need supplemental oxygen.
If the fetal heart rate doesn't improve or there are other complications brewing, you may need to have an emergency C-section, (something Beyoncé experienced while giving birth to her daughter after her heart rate dropped dramatically during labor, as SELF wrote previously).
Again, needing supplemental oxygen is not automatically a sign that anything is seriously wrong. “Don’t be concerned,” Dr. Shepherd says. “This is just part of our way of trying to make sure that the baby stays safe.”