Importance: The introduction of the cardiotocogram (CTG) during labor has not been found to improve neonatal outcome. The search for a more reliable, less invasive, and patient-friendly technique is ongoing. The noninvasive fetal electrocardiogram (NI-fECG) has been proposed as one such alternative.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to review the literature on the performance of NI-fECG for fetal monitoring during labor. Following the PRISMA guidelines, a systematic search in MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library was performed. Studies involving original research investigating the performance of NI-fECG during labor were included. Animal studies and articles in languages other than English, Dutch, or German were excluded. The QUADAS-2 checklist was used for quality assessment. A descriptive analysis of the results is provided.
Results: Eight articles were included. Pooled analysis of the results of the separate studies was not possible due to heterogeneity. All studies demonstrate that it is possible to apply NI-fECG during labor. Compared with Doppler ultrasound, NI-fECG performs equal or better in most studies.
Conclusions and Relevance: NI-fECG for fetal monitoring is a promising noninvasive and patient-friendly technique that provides accurate information. Future studies should focus on signal quality throughout labor, with the aim to further optimize technical development of NI-fECG.