Pioneering a fetal heart rate monitor
Tragically, around 3,200 babies are stillborn every year in the UK, that’s around nine every day, and thousands of women hospitalised with pregnancy complications that put babies’ lives at risk. However, thanks to funding from Action, a team of engineers and doctors at the University of Nottingham have developed a monitoring device that reads the heart signals of an unborn baby in the womb.
Using cutting-edge technology, the device reads the baby’s heart signals through electrodes placed on the mother’s skin. Doctors collect and interpret the signals and can then identify potential problems and intervene if necessary. The device is also portable and wireless, so can be worn by the mother for extended periods of time, while she moves around.
This method of measuring babies’ hearts, which enables the mother to move around, has never before been possible and opens the door to a new way of managing high-risk complications which occur in up to eight per cent of pregnancies. It was launched in the EU and UK in 2007 and was given the go-ahead in the US in 2012. The published results demonstrate a significantly reduced fetal and maternal heart rate confusion, with improved accuracy and reliability, allowing mothers to move around during labour.