Monitoring the heartbeat of the unborn is known to be stressful for expectant mothers. However, recent research at the University of Sussex may ease this process through the development of an effective sensor.
The newly developed sensor, created by Dr. Elizabeth Rendon-Morales, is an electrometer-based amplifier prototype using Electric Potential Sensing (EPS) technology that will measure the heartbeat of an unborn without the need to make a trip to the clinic or hospital. The sensor is effective enough to detect heart-related congenital defects during pregnancy or caution for future complications like premature delivery or umbilical cord compression.
Such new technology advances away from gel application and the existing use of silver chloride electrodes. "Although the ultrasound procedure is described as being non-invasive, having gel rubbed on your skin and then an electrode pressed against your womb is invasive and can be an uncomfortable experience for mothers. With this new heart monitor, expectant mothers can get reassurance that their baby is doing fine within a few seconds, removing the unnecessary stress and worry that waiting for a hospital scan currently involves,” explains Dr. Rendon-Morales, a Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Sussex.
It will allow mothers, experiencing diabetes, preeclampsia, and other high-risk pregnancy factors, to be able to regularly monitor the wellbeing of their baby. "Currently expectant mothers with health concerns about their babies have to go through the stress of going to a hospital to check on the heartbeat of their child. With this new technology, they will be able to do this from the comfort of their own home, which will be much better for the welfare of mother and baby,” says Dr. Rendon-Morales.
The sensor technology will non-invasively monitor for an utero fetal electrocardiogram simply by placing the device on top of the abdominal skin of the pregnant mother. The sensor is highly accurate in recording information needed to calculate fetal heart rate values and variability. It can be used as an aid for diagnoses of congenital cardiac diseases including arrhythmia as well as monitoring the processes implicated with blood pressure and heart vascular tone.
Despite the availability of home-based fetal electrocardiograms, they are not always accurate or effective. "This technology is a step forward for home-based medical devices, benefiting not only health service providers though resource optimization, but also expectant mothers who are experiencing a very exciting, but sometimes stressful, moment in their lives,” states co-author of the study, Dr. Rodrigo Aviles-Espinosa who is also a research fellow at the University of Sussex. "This technology will give peace of mind in providing answers very quickly and ultimately ensuring the baby's wellbeing."