Currently 300,000 pregnant women a year in the UK have their babies monitored during labour using cardiotocography (CTG), as recommended by the NICE intrapartum care guideline. Changes in fetal heart rate seen on the CTG may reflect hypoxia and resulting acidaemia, which can be associated with brain injury. However, CTG changes are frequently seen when there is no underlying fetal problem, and interpretation of the heart trace is liable to misinterpretation. It is therefore recommended that fetal blood sampling, where a sample of blood is taken from the baby’s scalp, is used in conjunction with CTG monitoring to confirm the acid-base and lactate balance of the fetus. Unfortunately current methods of taking fetal blood samples are time-consuming, technically difficult, unreliable, and require the use of an expensive separate blood gas analyser. They also only give a snap-shot of the state of fetal wellbeing at the time of sampling and do not provide a continuous real-time assessment of fetal wellbeing. Subtle but serious changes in fetal wellbeing may therefore be missed.
There is an unmet need for a device capable of providing accurate real-time assessment of fetal acid-base and lactate state throughout labour to inform timing of delivery and prevent brain injury.
Tommy’s, the charity that funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, is a partner on this project.
This is a four-year PhD that will be undertaken within the Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Sensing and Measurement. See http://www.cdt-ism.org for programme details and information on how to apply.
Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.
Full funding (stipend and fees) is available for 11 PhD students annually, for UK students and EU students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the last three years. You can find further information on eligibility on the EPSRC website. Students from EU countries are eligible for a fees only award, and we have a small number of fully funded places for EU students.