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Achtung, Baby: This Wireless Fetal Heart Rate Monitor Delivers

Giving birth is hard enough without getting trapped in your bed by a mess of wires and cables. Just ask labor and delivery nurse Brigitta Fifield, who spends a lot of time helping her patients get comfortable.

Fifield’s job often required repeated trips to the delivery room to detangle laboring mothers from the cords that connect them to maternal and fetal heart rate monitors. Every time a soon-to-be-mom needed to roll over, use the bathroom or sometimes just scratch a toe, she would have to sort out the cables attached to her body that connected her and the baby to a nearby machine.

This past spring, however, Fifield got help. Her hospital, the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC), started using a wireless monitor from GE Healthcare that keeps track of the mother’s and baby’s heart rates, and of uterine activity. The technology, called the Novii Wireless Patch System, allows Fifield to untether soon-to-be moms from their hospital beds.

But that’s not the whole story. In May, Fifield was able to test the monitor from a different perspective: Her nurse used it when Fifield gave birth to her third baby. “I was strapped to wired monitors when I gave birth to my first two children, and the wireless monitor gave me a completely different experience,” she says. With the Novii, Fifield used a yoga ball, walked the halls with her husband and easily moved around in the bed. “When I was on the wired monitors, the nurses would have to come in and adjust the straps every time I wanted to change positions — it was extremely restrictive,” she says.

Above: “When I was on the wired monitors, the nurses would have to come in and adjust the straps every time I wanted to change positions — it was extremely restrictive,” says nurse Brigitta Fifield. Image credit: Brigitta Fifield. Top: With the Novii, Fifield used a yoga ball, walked the halls with her husband and easily moved around in the bed. Image credit: GE Healthcare.

The Novii monitor does not require belts or cables. The single-use adhesive “peel and stick” patches placed on the woman’s abdomen contain electrodes that pick up fetal and maternal heartbeats and uterine contractions from the skin’s surface. The patches are magnetically connected to a small, plastic Novii Pod, about the size of a small sticky note and about as thick as a deck of cards. The reusable pod digitizes the signals and transmits them over Bluetooth to a Novii box, which displays the information in real-time on a screen and charges the pods.

The patches and the pod are waterproof (up to 1 meter) and comfortable, allowing patients to walk around, use a birthing ball or even shower — all while being closely monitored. “Our patients absolutely love the freedom this monitor gives them,” says Fifield’s colleague Ressha Mitchell, who has been a labor and delivery nurse for 18 years.

Mitchell recently cared for a patient who was in labor for 48 hours. “We kept the monitor on her the entire time and never lost the baby’s signal,” she says. “It was fantastic.”

The monitor is also frequently used with women who have a high body mass index (BMI). In such cases, it can be extremely difficult to achieve an adequate fetal heart rate tracing with traditional wired monitoring. However, the Novii is able to acquire reliable tracings on a variety of patient types, including high-BMI patients.

Mitchell says that at EIRMC, staff and patients alike welcomed the upgrade. “I was recently watching a video of my mom from the 1960’s when she was in the hospital about to deliver,” Mitchell says. “She was wearing the same wired monitors we use today! It’s about time we came up with something like the Novii.”

A version of this article originally appeared on The Pulse, GE Healthcare’s newsroom.

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