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Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring

Team Members:
  • Melissa Diskin
  • Jan Lee
  • Pankti Shah
  • Barrett Yates
  • Cherrie Evans, DrPH
  • Helge Fossan
  • Jinjie Sunny Chen
  • Harshad Sanghvi, MD
  • Lynn Kanyuuru, MD
  • Kristy Peterson


Each year, two million babies die annually from intrapartum-related deaths. Another one million are born with defects caused by birth asphyxia. To prevent complications the World Health Organization recommends that providers measure and record fetal heart rate every 30 minutes. The fetal heart rate provides critical information that determines if an intervention needs to be performed. Studies have shown that up to 43 percent of intrapartum neonatal deaths could be related to inadequate fetal heart rate monitoring. The current monitoring device, the Pinard horn, is inaccurate, time-consuming, fatiguing and difficult to use. When providers are unable to effectively monitor fetal heart rate during labor, it compromises the providers’ abilities to take action.

In partnership with Jhpiego and Laerdal Global Health, the design team has developed the Sikia monitor, an electronic fetal heart rate monitor that plays the fetal heart sound and displays heart rate. By using simple, inexpensive microphone technology, providers will have a faster, easier, and more accurate way to measure fetal heart rate. The team has recorded fetal heart sounds, improved signal quality, and has started developing an algorithm to calculate heart rate. The team has also received feedback by conducting interviews with midwives through Jhpiego, and through field visits to hospitals in India, Nepal, and Kenya. Additionally, the team has designed a study at a high-volume facility in Thika, Kenya to be performed this May. This study will provide additional users validation and feedback and quantify the value of the Sikia monitor over other devices. Overall, the Sikia monitor will increase the frequency of fetal heart rate measurement during labor, allowing for more timely interventions and thereby reducing the incidence of stillbirths and neonatal morbidity.

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