Scientists have developed an effective sensor that can allow pregnant women to measure the heartbeat of their unborn baby from the comfort of their homes.
The tool developed by researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK could help detect heart-related congenital disorders during pregnancy or highlight the need for medical interventions due to complications such as premature delivery or umbilical cord compression.
The technology would also greatly benefit women experiencing high-risk pregnancy factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, preeclampsia, and gestational high blood pressure, who require regular monitoring to ensure the wellbeing of their baby.
The research is the first significant update in the technology used to measure babies’ heart rates for 40 years and moves away from the existing use of silver chloride electrodes, researchers said.
Instead, the University of Sussex has developed an electrometer-based amplifier prototype using Electric Potential Sensing (EPS) technology, which allows for in utero fetal electrocardiogram monitoring by just placing the device on top of the skin of the pregnant mother’s abdomen in a non-invasive way.
Although there are some home-based fetal electrocardiograms available commercially, they are considered not suitable for daily or medical use because of concerns around their accuracy and portability.
The technology can record the information required to calculate fetal heart rate values and variability with high accuracy.
This can be used to clinically assess congenital cardiac diseases such as arrhythmia and to monitor processes associated with body autoregulation such as blood pressure and heart vascular tone.
The electrocardiogram can isolate the baby’s heartbeat from the mother’s with pinpoint accuracy, providing a simple reading without the need for any additional processing.
It also removes the need for a special gel to be applied to the skin. This is necessary when using silver chloride electrodes, in order to establish a reading, but the process can produce inaccurate readings.