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In Utero: Funding for unique wearable monitoring system that could greatly reduce stillbirths

Posted 18 October, 2022

A research team from University College Dublin have been awarded funding for a project aimed at dramatically reduce stillbirths.

The expert group – comprised of biomedical engineers and clinicians in UCD and Imperial College London – have developed a wearable system that can detect movements in the womb at home.

A stillbirth occurs every 16 seconds, and over 50% are associated with a reduction in movements in the womb.

The 'FM monitor' developed by (opens in a new window)Professor Niamh Nowlan, Principal Investigator, and collaborators from Imperial College London has the potential to identify fetuses at risk of stillbirth, as well as offering reassurance that a fetus is healthy, thereby decreasing the rates of unnecessary induction of labour and early delivery.

The project was awarded a contract as part of (opens in a new window)Wellcome Leap’s '(opens in a new window)In Utero' programme – a scheme aiming to develop scalable capacity to measure, model and predict gestational development with the primary goal of reducing stillbirth rates.

“We are thrilled to have been selected for funding by the Wellcome Leap ‘In Utero’ programme,” said Professor Nowlan, from UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Senior Fellow at the UCD Conway Institute.

“The funding will enable us to further develop our device by engaging with pregnant people and their midwives and doctors, by testing the monitor at home and in hospital, and, we believe, will lead to our device being adopted globally to reduce stillbirth rates worldwide.

“The unique aspect of the Wellcome Leap ‘In Utero’ programme is that it funds international multidisciplinary teams of experts. Our team is made up of biomedical engineers and clinicians from Ireland, the UK and Bangladesh, and together we can work to make ground-breaking advances towards cutting stillbirth rates by half.”

Co-PI (opens in a new window)Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe, from UCD School of Medicine and the National Maternity Hospital, added: "Every stillbirth is a tragedy for the parents and family but the majority of stillbirths occur when there are no obvious risk factors.

“New technologies such as baby movement monitoring will offer a crucial advance towards preventing stillbirth."

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations (with materials from Caroline Byrne, UCD Research and Innovation)