Start: March 2018
End: March 2021
Why do we need this research?
Babies need to be carefully monitored during labour to make sure that they are getting enough oxygen, as too little oxygen can lead to brain damage. This monitoring is normally done using cardiotocography, where the baby’s heartbeat is recorded in the mother’s womb. However, this isn’t always a reliable measure, as the baby’s heart rate may slow down without any underlying problems.
We need to develop better ways to continuously monitor the health of the unborn baby during labour. This would mean that if there are any life-threatening problems, the baby can be delivered through c-section as quickly as possible, reducing the risk of long-term complications.
What’s happening in this project?
An alternative way to tell if the baby is getting enough oxygen is measuring the amount of a chemical called lactate in the blood. This is currently done by making a small cut into the baby’s scalp while it is still in the womb. However, this is difficult to do and very invasive, and only gives one ‘snapshot’ of the baby’s lactate levels.
Our researchers are developing a new way to continuously measure lactate levels in the baby. They hope to do this using a sensor which attaches to the skin, and measures the lactate in the baby’s scalp, safely and non-invasively.
The team are modifying existing sensors, called fetal scalp electrodes, to see if they can be repurposed to measure lactate. They will a special enzyme which breaks down lactate to produce a molecule which can generate a tiny electrical current. This enzyme will be ‘printed’ onto the sensor, so that the more lactate present in the baby’s skin, the more electrical current the sensor generates.
What difference will this project make?
This innovative project could result in a new way to monitor the health of a baby during labour. Being able to continuously monitor the health of the baby will help to ensure that any problems can be acted upon as quickly as possible, to make sure that the baby has the best chance of a healthy life.
Get our research updates
Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.
More research projects
We asked our lovely friend and supporter, Jennie Agg, what motherhood and Mother's Day means to her. In this piece, she speaks of her difficult past experiences of Mother's Day, how she has grappled with a sense of being in limbo, and the ultimate purity of her feeling of mother love.
In the lead up to Mother's Day, you might find yourself thinking about how to process your emotions and what to do on the day itself. The anticipation can often feel scary or daunting, and finding ways to look after yourself is important. In this blog, you'll find advice from a few of our lovely supporters who understand how you're feeling.
New research has revealed the benefits of giving progesterone to women with early pregnancy bleeding and a history of miscarriage.
Tommy’s spent yesterday morning at the charming Foundling Museum in London, celebrating the work of Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement alongside the opening of the museum’s new exhibition, ‘Portraying Pregnancy’.