Impact: Research Topic/Theme (at group level)

Description of impact

Pregnancy is the most dangerous period in a person’s life. Timely and accurate assessment of the health condition of mother and fetus is essential to enable timely intervention in case of complications such as a high-risk of preterm birth and fetal distress. Relevant parameters are the cardiac activity of the fetus and the contractility of the myometrium.

On top of this, more and more women rely on assisted reproductive technology as the last resort to get pregnant. This is also due to the trend to postpone conception. Unfortunately, the success rate of the most advanced technologies is still disappointingly low (30%). Therefore, already before pregnancy, our research aims at supporting state-of-the-art assisted reproductive technology by assessment of condition and activity of the myometrium (uterine muscle). To this end, pioneering analysis of motion and electrophysiological activity of the uterus is developed.

Due to the important limitations posed by current pregnancy monitoring technology, intervention can only be triggered by mother's symptoms, often resulting in ineffective, late interventions. Instead, monitoring and early warning is crucial to enable timely intervention and decision making. This can be achieved through advanced multimodal sensing, possibly enabling unobtrusive home monitoring of the fetal condition and uterine activity. Our research includes investigation of new sensing technology, development of accurate mathematical models describing the involved physiology, and design of dedicated signal processing tools (see Roadmap Perinatology). The ultimate challenge is permitting accurate and noninvasive extraction, analysis, and classification of parameters which are necessary for reliable monitoring of pregnancy progression and childbirth. Also after birth, early warning is vital and can be achieved by monitoring of brain and cardiorespiratory activity for a complete assessment of the newborn condition. Unobtrusiveness is especially relevant and can be obtained by means of contactless sensors and cameras. Monitoring can then be combined with advanced assistive technology, maintaining the main vital functions and permitting treatment and recovery. Our perinatology research profits from tight collaboration with clinical partners, providing guidance towards clinical relevance and feasibility.
Category of impactResearch Topic/Theme (at group level)