Tuesday, 23 June 2020

i4C Blogathon - First Prize Winning Blog Entry by Ms. Gayathri S K | Theme Healthcare Automation & Renewable Energy

Non-invasive Monitoring System For Stress-free Labor

First Prize Winning Entry  | Theme Healthcare Automation & Renewable Energy

Ms. Gayathri S K
Year, Electronics/Electrical
Sethu Institute of  Technology

Ever watched scenes of a woman giving birth in a movie? Chances are they were pretty intense and blaring, and made you cringe at least once.
It always feels like life is moving faster all the time. But for a pregnant woman, things seem to slow down and days become hard to pass. Many women feel more vulnerable or anxious.
At least 1 in 5 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy, and many are likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder. If an expectant mother is stressed for a longer time, the risk of the unborn child developing a physical or mental illness increases. Also, women with diabetes or high blood pressure might face many complications during pregnancy and labor. But as every lock has its key, this problem too has a solution – a non-invasive fetal monitoring device.

So, what is a fetal monitoring system?
Fetal monitoring is a procedure of monitoring the fetus by assessing the rate of the fetal heartbeat and the uterine contractions of the mother. Any abnormality may indicate an insufficient supply of oxygen to the fetus or other complications. Fetal monitoring assures both the mother and the obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other physicians that it is safe to continue with the labor if no problem is detected. Currently, there are two ways of monitoring:
• External monitoring: A fetoscope is the most basic external monitor. This device records the fetal heart rate when placed on the mother’s abdomen. Another widely used device is the one that
we all grew up watching in movies, the hand-held ultrasound doppler which produces an audible simulation of the heartbeat. These methods are normally carried out during the prenatal visits.
• Internal monitoring: Here an electronic transducer is connected directly to the fetal scalp through the cervical opening of the mother. But this method is carried out only when a signal could not be detected properly or when keen monitoring is required (Sigh of relief!).
During labor, the frequency and strength of the uterine contractions are measured using a tocodynamometer, a pressure-sensitive device that is placed on the mother’s abdomen. Cardiotocography also called as electronic fetal monitoring is a method that assesses both fetal heart rate and uterine contractions, and plots them in a graph which the physician uses for observation. This procedure is not desired since the mother is physically restricted during its use. Several methods exist in terms of monitoring the fetus and the mother during labor. But what if these procedures themselves panic all the pregnant mamas?

How about going handy and non-invasive?
The methods mentioned above do not come trouble-free. The demerits are evident as follows:
• Large-sized machines
• Cause physical restriction
• Might lead to incorrect readings or observer variability
• The mother might need medication for pain relief

While almost anything and everything around the world is becoming handy, why still worry about pregnancy? Wearable devices are revolutionizing the healthcare sector. Harnessing the power of
wearables, my friends and I have deduced a solution that would make pregnancy a feel-good experience for all the mamas out there. We have ideated to develop an advanced non-invasive monitoring system –
WeeCare, which displays the fetal and maternal heart rates, and uterine activity on a single device. But no belts and cables or insertion through the cervix this time. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
• The device non-invasively detects the fetal and maternal ECG (fECG and mECG) signals and extracts heart rates (FHR and MHR), separately.
• It also detects electromyogram (EMG) signals to decipher the uterine activity (UA).
The device has simple, adhesive patches that are stuck on the mother’s abdomen. These patches have electrodes that collect the ECG and EMG signals from the skin surface and transfer them to the magnetically connected processor which is attached to the display device. The signals are filtered, digitized, and processed to extract the FHR, MHR, and UA readings. This processor then transmits the data via Bluetooth enabling the caregivers to observe them on the display device.

Why WeeCare?
Expectant mothers anticipate a fuss-free pregnancy, and caregivers bank on exceptional medical system. WeeCare prioritizes mother’s comfort and also enhances caregiver workflow.
• Flexible choices
The mother could be monitored without any restrictions either during pregnancy or during labor. WeeCare empowers the mother by letting her do what is best for her. The device provides a belt-free labor experience allowing freedom of movement. She can move unassisted while receiving the
needed care and can also choose her labor positions and ambulatory activities.

• Mobility
The device wirelessly transmits data from the patches, removing the need for cords between the patient and the fetal monitor (display device).

The device helps know the condition of the fetus from time to time consistently which would help detect preterm births or other complications easily. Women with a history of miscarriage will find the
device obliging.(That’s enough technicality.)
The fetal monitor will also include features like:
• in-app purchases to buy every item in the mile-long, “prepping-for-baby” 
 To-Do list
• health tips, and exercise regime
• reminders and memos for clinical check-ups, and much more exciting stuff to make pregnancy a pleasurable episode in life.
The main motive behind ideating to build WeeCare is to make pregnancy and labor a delightful experience while reducing birth defects and infant deaths.
Calling all mamas-to-be! It’s a fundamental truth of motherhood that those nine months of pregnancy could be extremely tiring and intimidating, but WeeCare will be your Holy grail.
Happy mama-ing!

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