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Stanford Medicine

Bioengineering, Pregnancy, Technology, Women's Health

Device designed to better detect preterm labor

pregnant belly - side.jpg

A group of Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering students has invented a new system to help physicians pick up early signs that a woman is going into preterm labor. The researchers developed a sensor-embedded ring that is inserted into the vaginal canal and designed to detect electrical signals associated with uterine contractions. As reported yesterday by Gizmag:

Until now, doctors have mostly relied on [an] external device attached to the abdomen to detect premature labor, but a new internal system… could detect uterine contractions very early in the pregnancy which could assist doctors to prolong the pregnancy.

“The problem is, the technology now used by most doctors usually detects preterm labor when it’s so far along that medications can only delay some of these births for a few days,” said Karin Hwang of Ontario, Calif., one of the student inventors. “But if labor can be detected earlier, medications can sometimes prolong the pregnancy by as much as six weeks.”

A Johns Hopkins release outlines the health concerns and costs associated with premature births and points out the potential cost savings ($44,000 for every preterm birth prevented) of the device, if proven effective. Much work is still needed, however: Though early results in animal models were encouraging, the prototype has not yet been used on humans.

Photo by seanmcgrath

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