Charity hails new hope for families facing trauma of stillbirth | Action Medical Research

Charity hails new hope for families facing trauma of stillbirth

27 April 2007
A NEW heart rate monitor which offers obstetricians an unrivalled insight into the working of unborn babies' hearts could save hundreds of infant lives a year. Each day, 10 babies are stillborn in the UK (1) - a figure which the Monica AN24 monitor, developed with funding from the charity Action Medical Research, aims to shatter. The monitor is initially being targeted at mothers who have previously had a stillbirth or have a condition that could threaten their unborn baby such as diabetes or raised blood pressure, but could eventually become commonplace in obstetric practice for all women at risk from pregnancy complications. The same size as a mobile phone, the device's discreet design means it can be worn continuously for a period of 24 hours, with near-continuous detection of the baby’s heart beat. Commenting, Dr Terry Martin, Marketing Director for Monica Healthcare, the company that has designed the product, said: “A big challenge was to ‘pick up’ the unborn baby’s heart beat clearly. This electrical reading from a baby’s heart beat is so small compared to other electrical signals, including the mother’s own heart beat, that it is very difficult to find. For mothers at risk of stillbirth, this device could give doctors a vital insight into the right time to induce delivery and so reduce the numbers of babies stillborn.” The monitor is the product of more than 15 years hard work, aided by funding from Action Medical Research and was largely done by Drs Barrie Hayes-Gill, Jean Francois Pieri and John Crow (at the University of Nottingham) who, showed that it was possible to locate and track the unborn baby’s heart beat. It was this pioneering work that has led to the development of this unique device The project builds on the charity's long history of supporting research into pregnancy complications, including backing the medical use of ultrasound scanning in the 1970s. Existing methods to record babies' heart rates in pregnancy provide limited information as well as being too cumbersome to allow continuous, long-term monitoring. The new device will unburden mothers by releasing them from long-term stays in hospital while providing reassurance that their baby is being expertly watched over. Dr Yolande Harley, Research Manager at Action Medical Research said: “We have supported this project for more than eight years, and feel it could make a substantial difference to the many people who may have lost babies in the past and can't bear to have it happen again. It also means that mothers at risk can get on with their lives, with less worry that their unborn child might be in distress without them even knowing." The device also offers clinicians information on the functioning of the maternal heart as well as details on how the fetus is lying within the womb. Professor Jim Thornton, a Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Nottingham’s City Hospital said: "Since the Monica device is completely non-invasive, it will offer mothers continuous reassurance about their babies. It is likely that the ability to monitor the baby's heart beat in a safe and continuous manner will prove a useful tool for mothers at risk of stillbirth.” The monitor is due to be released in the UK during September 2007. ENDS NOTES TO EDITORS 1. Birth statistics, Office for National Statistics, Review of the Registrar General on births and patterns of family building in England and Wales, 2004: b) Statistics library (Vital Events Reference Tables), General Register Office for Scotland: c) Registrar General Annual Report 2004 - Section 3 Births. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency: 2. Dr Terry Martin and Dr Harley are both available for interview, please contact: Patrick Olszowski, Press and PR Manager, Action Medical Research 01403 327493 or via email:
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