2009 Ambulatory Fetal Monitoring

This groundbreaking research has been partly funded by SIDS and Kids and incorporates the accelerometer, a tiny electronic device that was originally developed for car airbags and is now used in Nintendo Wii, the Apple iPhone and Nike+iPod shoes.

Biomedical engineers adapted this technology to develop the fetal monitor used in the research project. The fetal monitor is being tested at the Royal Women’s Hospital, The Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital (RBWH) and the Mater Mothers’ Hospital. It uses the accelerometer technology to measure babies movements over a prolonged period of time.

The team of researchers led by Professor Paul Colditz, Director of the Perinatal Research Centre, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, has two major aims for this research. One, that it provides a framework to understand what a ‘normal’ pattern of movement is for a baby in the final term – a topic that is vastly under-researched. And two, that it potentially leads to a low cost, non-invasive device that could be attached to the stomach of mothers who are concerned about lack of movement.

Pregnant women feel about one third of the baby’s movements. The best way of measuring all the baby’s movements is during an ultrasound, however that is expensive and means that the pregnant woman needs to attend hospital and lie still for about half an hour to have this testing done. The Ambulatory Fetal Activity Monitorwill enable these measurements to be taken whilst the pregnant women is mobile and going about normal day-to-day activities and over a longer period of time. It is hoped that by using this device, health practitioners will obtain more information that will assist in the prevention of stillbirth.

As the next phase of the study will involve extensive clinical trials, it will be several years before the project is completed and the Ambulatory Fetal Activity Monitor has potential to be available in the market place. This project is jointly funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and SIDS and Kids.