After becoming pregnant, mothers-to-be expect they will carry the fetus for 37 to 40 weeks before giving birth. For various reasons including poor health, pregnancy complications, or multiple fetuses – some mothers go into labor earlier than the 37 week goal resulting in premature birth, risks to baby (ies) and extensive medical care costs. Aina-Mumuney, a student advisor to four John’s Hopkins University master’s degree students, felt there needed to be a better early detection device and that is exactly what the students created.
The Impact of Premature Labor
According to the March of Dimes, one out of every eight babies born is premature. Babies are often taken to neonatal intensive care units where healthcare costs can reach $44,000 or more. There are drugs like Breathene and Magnesium Sulfate that can be administered to stop premature labor, but if detection is not early enough, these drugs may only work for a short time.
Detecting premature labor requires an electronic sensor be placed on the abdomen to detect contractions. If mom is obese or overweight, the sensors may not pick up subtle contractions that could be a clear sign of premature labor. The sensors may also lack the sensitivity needed to register early contractions at all, even in women who are of normal weight. With such limitations, doctors typically do not detect early labor until it is too late resulting in early birth.
The challenge faced by the John’s Hopkins University students was whether to go internal or external. At first, they though a protein test to pick up blood markers would be the best choice. Aina-Mumuney thought an internal device would provide faster results because it could be used in office for immediate detection. The internal device needed to be easy to use and offer no threat to the fetus or mother. The students developed CervoCheck – a vaginal device that carries sensitive sensors close to the cervix where contractions begin.
How is CervoCheck Implanted?
According to presentation videos, the CervoCheck device will be implanted deep into the vagina resting on both the vaginal wall and the cervix for optimal monitoring. There is no mention of whether the device will be implanted for use only in an office setting or left in place for home monitoring. If the device recognizes premature labor, doctors can treat the symptoms early enough to prolong gestation up to six weeks. There is mention of the CervoCheck device being in animal trials, but no such trials could be found.
“Students Design Early Labor Detector Aimed to Prevent Premature Births.”Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology. 22 July 2010. Web. 19 Aug. 2010.
“Preterm Labor and Birth: A Serious Pregnancy Complication – March of Dimes.”Pregnancy, Babies, Prematurity – March of Dimes Foundation. Web. 19 Aug. 2010.
CervoCheck – Revolutionizing OB Monitoring. Web. 19 Aug. 2010.