Qual-IFY: Understanding the opinions of doctors towards fetal monitoring technology

Scientists funded by Tommy’s are developing new ways of monitoring a baby’s health during labour. In this project, our researchers interviewed doctors to find out how they use the tests that are currently available, and how they feel about new technologies. This has helped us to identify the barriers that could prevent new technologies being adopted quickly.
  • Author's list

    Professor Fiona Denison, Professor Julia Lawton, Dr Andrew Brown

    Start date: August 2018
    End date: August 2020

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Completed projects

Why do we need this research?

If babies don’t get enough oxygen during labour, it can sometimes lead to brain damage and even death. Our current methods for monitoring a baby’s health during labour aren’t always effective.

Researchers funded by Tommy’s are developing new ways to check that a baby is getting enough oxygen. But without ‘buy-in’ from the people using it – doctors and midwives – this new technology might not be adopted quickly. We need to gather their opinions to make sure that new monitoring equipment meets their needs.

What happened in this project?

In the Qual-IFY study, our researchers interviewed 16 obstetricians from 9 maternity units across the UK to gather their opinions on the technology that is available to monitor the health of babies during labour. The team asked the doctors about their experiences with current technology, such as cardiotocography (CTG) machines – which listen to the baby’s heartbeat through the mother’s womb – and fetal blood sampling. Although all units shared similar guidelines and technologies, there was variation in how heart rate monitoring and blood sampling were being used to monitor the wellbeing of babies. This was strongly influenced by the culture of each maternity unit.

The team also explored the attitudes of doctors towards new technologies that could be used to monitor babies during labour. They found that a lack of resources and unwillingness to change were the main barriers to the adoption of new technologies. Regional clinical networks were seen as the key means of bringing about change. Most of the obstetricians thought that improved training for midwives and doctors on how to monitor a baby’s heart rate during labour was a key priority.

What difference will this project make?

Our researchers want to develop new ways of monitoring the health of babies during labour, so that they can reduce the risks of harm to babies. This project has identified the key local barriers to changes in practice and has provided our researchers with ideas about how to make sure that healthcare professionals will use any new monitoring equipment that may be developed. This will allow mothers and babies to benefit from new technology as soon as possible, reducing the chances of harm for babies during labour.