Researchers and developers at the University of Nottingham believe the device has the potential to benefit 70,000 at risk babies a year in the UK alone. Statistics show that as many as ten babies a day are stillborn in the UK and ten per cent of all pregnancies each year are high risk.

The foetal monitor lets doctors read signals produced naturally by the unborn baby's heart. They can then intervene if necessary and potentially save their lives. This highly sensitive device, which is able to detect 0.00000001 volts, has now been reduced to the size of a mobile phone. It can compute real time foetal readings and the resulting data can be transmitted by wireless technology to the nearest PC or hand held computer. The device has now passed all EU regulatory safety standards.

Currently hospital based ultrasound is used to record babies' heart rates during pregnancy. While this technique has proven benefits, it needs to be administered by trained professionals and it is not suitable for routine, continuous, long-term monitoring. Dr Margaret Ramsay at the University’s School of Human Development says it will play a key role in monitoring high-risk pregnancies. “For all these foetuses, the more we can monitor them, the greater the chance of us detecting that they are running into difficulties before it is too late to help them. This may involve urgent delivery of the foetus.”

The device will be especially helpful in monitoring foetuses whose mothers have medical conditions like diabetes, autoimmune conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren's syndrome and obstetric cholestasis, the developers hope. It will also be useful in monitoring foetuses identified as growing poorly or where it is suspected that the placenta is unhealthy and hence the foetus may become compromised due to lack of oxygen.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Nottingham