Year/Course: 2021-2022, Easter 2022
Project type: Development

Inventors: Dr. Kathryn Hesketh, MRC Epidemiology Unit & Dr. Cassi Henderson, Institute for Manufacturing
Mentor: Johannes Wolff

The inventors are developing a method of measuring foetal movements outside of clinical settings, allowing longer-term monitoring of foetal movements than is currently possible with existing approaches (e.g ultrasound, heart-rate sensors).

There has been some research showing links between foetal activity levels and outcomes such as birth weight. Reduced foetal movements can sometimes also signal that the feotus may be experiencing distress. Currently, the most common way to assess foetal movement is to ask mothers to monitor it by sensation. However, this is complex and presents challenges as each baby has their own movement patterns, these change as the foetus grows and develops, and mothers have many competing demands which may prevent constant attention to foetal movements. How foetal movements contribute to general wellbeing of the baby is therefore not well-understood, because there is currently no good way to measure foetal activity outside of clinical settings.

The inventors envision developing a portable, battery-powered monitor worn by mothers outside of formal clinic settings, which would track foetal movements over the course of a pregnancy. The inventors are currently at the requirements-gathering stage of the project and are interested in understanding whether there could be a use for such a product in low and middle income countries, and how such a device would need to interact with the existing healthcare ecosystem.

This will be the role of the i-Team – to assess the scenarios where the device could be most useful, investigate barriers to adoption and use, and to gather the real-world requirements so that an appropriate device can be designed that is useful and fit-for-purpose in such contexts.