Simulation of fetal heart rate variability with a mathematical model

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In the clinic, the cardiotocogram (CTG), the combined registration of fetal heart rate (FHR) and uterine contractions, is used to predict fetal well-being. Amongst others, fetal heart rate variability (FHRV) is an important indicator of fetal distress. In this study we add FHRV to our previously developed CTG simulation model, in order to improve its use as a research and educational tool. We implemented three sources of variability by applying either 1/f or white noise to the peripheral vascular resistance, baroreceptor output, or efferent vagal signal. Simulated FHR tracings were evaluated by visual inspection and spectral analysis. All power spectra showed a 1/f character, irrespective of noise type and source. The clinically observed peak near 0.1 Hz was only obtained by applying white noise to the different sources of variability. Similar power spectra were found when peripheral vascular resistance or baroreceptor output was used as source of variability. Sympathetic control predominantly influenced the low frequency power, while vagal control influenced both low and high frequency power. In contrast to clinical data, model results did not show an increase of FHRV during FHR decelerations. Still, addition of FHRV improves the applicability of the model as an educational and research tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55–64
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Engineering & Physics
Early online date11 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • Cardiotocogram Spectral analysis
  • Fetal heart rate variability
  • Computer simulation model
  • Fetal monitoring
  • Cardiotocogram
  • Spectral analysis


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