Simulation of reflex late decelerations in labor with a mathematical model

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Fetal welfare during labor and delivery is commonly monitored through the cardiotocogram (CTG), the combined registration of uterus contractions and fetal heart rate (FHR). From the CTG, the fetal oxygen state is estimated as the main indicator of the fetal condition, but this estimate is difficult to make, due to the complex relation between CTG and oxygen state. Mathematical models can be used to assist in the interpretation of the CTG, since they enable quantitative modeling of the flow of events through which uterine contractions affect fetal oxygenation and FHR. We propose a mathematical model to simulate reflex ‘late decelerations’, i.e. variations in FHR originating from uteroplacental flow reduction during uterine contractions and mediated by the baroreflex and the chemoreflex. Results for the uncompromised fetus show that partial oxygen pressures reduce in relation to the strength and duration of the contraction. Above a certain threshold, hypoxemia will evoke a late deceleration. Results for uteroplacental insufficiency, simulated by reduced uterine blood supply or reduced placental diffusion capacity, demonstrated lower baseline FHR and smaller decelerations during contraction. Reduced uteroplacental blood volume was found to lead to deeper decelerations only. The model response in several nerve blocking simulations was similar to experimental findings by Martin et al. [18], indicating a correct balance between vagal and sympathetic reflex pathways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-19
Number of pages13
JournalEarly Human Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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