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Revolutionizing pregnancy and birth monitoring: CSEM and University Hospital of Bern introduce automated solutions


15 May 2023

In a collaborative effort, CSEM and the Women’s Clinic of the University Hospital of Bern (Inselspital) have taken the lead in streamlining prenatal care and continuous monitoring for pregnancy and birth. Leveraging wearable smart dry electrodes and the power of artificial intelligence (AI), these two institutions are revolutionizing the field.

Transforming pregnancy monitoring with advanced technology

A notable innovation in this initiative is the development of an AI-based expert system aimed at supporting healthcare professionals in analyzing cardiotocograph (CTG) data. CTG, a medical device commonly used by doctors to monitor fetal heart rate and maternal contractions during pregnancy and childbirth, has been a trusted method since its inception in the 1960s. However, interpreting the large volume of data generated by CTG has always presented challenges.

In response to these limitations, Dr. Anda Radan, Senior Physician for Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Women’s Clinic of the University Hospital of Bern, envisions an ideal solution: “We imagine an ergonomic, accurate, real-time, user-friendly, and portable system for monitoring pregnancy and labor that is wireless. Ideally it would operate without the assistance of a healthcare professional, enabling monitoring at home or during sleep.”

Transforming pregnancy care through collaborative research

Taking a significant step towards realizing this vision, CSEM and the Women’s Clinic of the University Hospital of Bern embarked on a research project in 2019. With funding from the ESA’s (the European Space Agency) Technology Transfer Program, the project explores how CSEM’s cooperative sensor technology can meet the demands of modern pregnancy care. The modular sensor technology facilitates simultaneous measurement of both maternal and fetal heart rates, with future versions aiming to monitor labor activity as well. The system employs multiple smaller sensors attached to a belt worn around the mother’s abdomen.

Advancing Wearable solutions

This innovative approach allows for a compact system by integrating electronics directly into the dry electrodes. It paves the way for a future where a fully wearable system seamlessly blends into comfortable and easy-to-clean textiles like abdominal bands. Unlike the current method of using adhesive electrodes, the modular and miniaturized sensors are strategically positioned in a grid pattern throughout the abdominal sensing band, connected by just two cables. This not only improves comfort and eliminates skin irritation but also simplifies the CTG process by removing the need for meticulous electrode positioning.

The current belt system, a joint effort by CSEM and the Women’s Clinic of the University Hospital of Bern, shows promising results with around 30 patients. Next, the focus will be on miniaturizing the sensor concept as part of the NEWLIFE research project. Through further studies involving patients, the aim is to optimize user-friendliness and practicality in a clinical setting.

Ai-driven solutions for informed decision-making

In parallel, CSEM and the Women’s Clinic of the University Hospital of Bern are actively engaged in another project aimed at improving the interpretation of CTG data—the standard clinical examination. Interpreting CTG data requires expertise and experience, which can sometimes lead to variability in diagnoses. To address this issue, the teams are developing an AI-based expert system that will assist clinicians in making informed decisions before and after childbirth. The algorithms used in this system are being developed using the Women’s Clinic’s extensive CTG database, which contains data from over 15,000 births spanning 17 years. Promising initial results from this endeavor have been published in a scientific paper, and a patent is being prepared.

These two projects showcase the remarkable success achieved through collaborative efforts in multidisciplinary medical research. By harnessing expertise from diverse fields, they are paving the way for a healthcare system that is both digitized and compassionate, marking a significant leap forward in the field.

Watch the videos below for more information about CSEM and HUBern-Insel: