Comparability of an innovative Doppler ultrasound fetal heart rate monitor to a pinard fetal stethoscope using cardiotocography as a standard to assess the fetal heart rate in singleton pregnancies during labour at Mowbray Maternity Hospital

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Almost four million babies die in the first four weeks of life per year worldwide, most from preventable causes. In addition a million babies die during labour and delivery (Lawn J et al., 2005). In South Africa, ‘intrapartum hypoxia and birth trauma’ are among the top three causes of perinatal deaths. Severe intrapartum hypoxia is often preventable with appropriate maternal and fetal monitoring in labour. However, this remains a challenge in under-resourced settings, due to difficulties that accompany the use of a Pinard Fetal Stethoscope (PFS) which include user-dependence and lack of evidence based standardisation in taking measurements with it. Although intermittent fetal heart monitoring is as effective as continuous electronic monitoring in low risk labours (Banta DH and Thacker, 2001), the search is for reliable, robust and cheaper fetal monitoring devices. The innovative crank powered Doppler Ultrasound Fetal Heart Rate Monitor (DUFHRM) developed by Power-free Education and Technology is robust, cheaper and designed for use even in settings with no or erratic access to mains electricity and replaceable batteries, and overcomes some of the challenges that come with the use of PFS (Banta DH and Thacker, 2001). The aim of the study was to assess the accuracy of Fetal Heart Rates (FHRs)taken with the DUFHRM compared to FHRs taken with a PFS using a Cardiotocography (CTG) as a standard fetal heart rate monitoring device. This was a comparative diagnostic study conducted at Mowbray Maternity Hospital, a public sector maternity hospital in Cape Town during 2012. Women with singleton pregnancies in the active phase of the first stage of labour, who had consented to participation, were enrolled in the study. Paired readings of FHRs were taken with a DUFHRM and a PFS, by two midwives and also with a CTG during the active phase of the first stage of labour before and after two preferably consecutive uterine contractions. The midwives were blinded to the CTG measurements by silencing the CTG and turning it away from their view. The FHRs taken with a PFS were done over a 60 second period in accordance with the guidelines from professional bodies (ACOG, 1995, RANZCOG, 2002, RCOG, 2001a, Liston R et al., 2002) The DUFHRM and CTG readings were made at the start and end of each 60 second period of PFS monitoring. The proportion agreement of FHRs taken with a DUFHRM to FHRs recorded with a CTG, and the proportion agreement of FHRs taken with a PFS to FHRs recorded with a CTG were determined and compared using McNemar Exact Significance Probability test (mcc).

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