Wearable pregnancy ultrasound
1) Recent Australian research shows pregnant women only detect up to a third of fetal activity and can cause anxiety and release stressful hormones into the womb when unnecessary. 2) Adaptive learning skills start in utero. 3)Winner of 2010 Australian Design Award is a touch-screen portable ultrasound scanner; I thought: why not make it wearable?
UNIQUE PROPERTIES / PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
The abdominal monitor reinforces proximity by bringing the focus back onto the belly, rather than on an external screen. The keypad is intuitive for optimal haptic navigation, moreover emphasizing the iconic gesture of embrace; allowing other members of the family especially the father to connect with the foetus in its context. It could also be an educational moment for other members of the family. The insight is to keep the mothers in a positive state of mind. By establishing early bonding prolongs maternal relationship post-birth as well as delivering a healthy child. PreVue not only gives you the opportunity to interact and record a continuous growth development throughout gestation, but also an early understanding of the unborn child's personality as you see it yawning, rolling, smiling etc., bringing you closer till the day it finally rests into your arms.
PreVue can also be visualized as a telemedicinal tool for women living in remote areas. Its form and usability is approachable and intuitive respectively for ease of operation, as well saving cost & time in transportation to hospitals or clinics. For more rural locations where midwives are still in practice, PreVue can provide assistance in helping the mothers & fathers connect and understand the health and development of their unborn child (hence reducing their ignorance, uncertainty and anxiety towards giving birth). It is lightweight to carry, soft and comfortable to touch and therefore helps relieve any white-coat syndromes that come with visiting doctors in a medical environment.
OPERATION / FLOW / INTERACTION:
Between the end of the first trimester (when the foetus is somewhat developed, and has grown ears, eyes, limbs etc. to be able to sense movement/sounds for gentle interactions) and end of second trimester is a good time to use PreVue.
Highest fetal activity peaks between 9pm – 1am; which is also is around the time when mother goes to sleep. Before bed they have a habit of stroking, talking, singing to the baby in the belly and so using PreVue during this period is probably when you get most of the responses and interactions.
PreVue can be worn like a normal maternity belt, with the ‘canvas’ - the scanning panel - over the belly. Subsequently press start and it will scan across the abdomen without the need of any bio-gel or probing action; followed by a real-time (4D) imaging which you can just simply scroll up/down/left/right/rotate/zoom in/out for intuitive haptic navigation with the abdominal keypad.
You may switch off to end the scanning at any time you wish. A timer indicator, temperature sensor and safety auto-switch function are embedded so risks of over-exposure is minimized. Frequency / output setting etc. of ultrasound is also defaulted and fixed within the safety parameters according to the British Medical Ultrasound Society regulations.
For the mother, she can also see the imaging via USB on a laptop/monitor where she can save the videos and upload them to their relatives/parents overseas or simply their obstetrician if they live in remote areas over a telemedicine platform.
PROJECT DURATION AND LOCATION:
This was my thesis project for final year at the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia); commencing in July 2010 for 5 months and exhibited at the Bonds Building (Sydney, Australia) in December 2010. Usually for a thesis project you get one year, however I changed my topic midway and hence time was a major factor for pressure.
FITS BEST INTO CATEGORY:
Scientific Instruments, Medical Devices and Research Equipment Design
PRODUCTION / REALIZATION TECHNOLOGY:
It is an e-textile based apparatus that uses 4D ultrasound using Capacitive Micro-machined Transducers (cMUT) with cost-effective, mass-productive, e-compatible advantages in comparison to traditional transducers. Other benefits include the exclusion of ultrasonic bio-gel and efficient manufacturing processes.
Ultrasound can only be exposed under recommended time and frequency margins (British Medical Ultrasound Society); hence a timer-indicator, temperature sensor & an auto-switch is included in the design, with a fixed ultrasonic frequency and power settings.
An international team of engineers lead by Dr John Rogers (University of Illinois) developed a stretchable LED screen at micron-scale which can be used for displaying biomedical information in the context of illness origin. It uses common thin film processing and computer chip wiring methods to bond interconnected micro-LEDs onto stretchable substrates that shines brighter and lasts longer.
A German eTextile research project (STELLA) experimented possibilities for future wearable, durable and washable electronics. Polyurethane films with copper conduits are the best materials for withstanding and lasting through stress and strain tests. Silicon over-moulding can be applied to the electronics to protect from water.
SPECIFICATIONS / TECHNICAL PROPERTIES:
1250 x 356 mm x 9mm
Cotton Spandex (solution dry spinning)
Polyurethane (low pressure silicone over-moulding)
Stretchable LED panel (photolithography)
PreVue, wearable fetal ultrasound, telemedicine, maternal fetal bonding, maternal anxiety
Background: I came across a recent Australian research finding that women only detect up to a third of fetal activity. Pregnant women are sensitive and constantly focusing on the baby so they can be quite stressed about its health even when there’s a slight reduction in movement. When pregnant women are stressed it can induce hypertension and other side effects which may result in still births. So I started thinking about how I can elevate maternal depression by executing primary and secondary research methods: I interviewed 5 pregnant women via an ongoing questionnaire-based survey, as well as presenting to them my concepts for open discussion. I also consulted with an obstetrician as to what medical concerns I should look out for in terms of ultrasound practices. Throughout this time I continually read journal articles and research papers to gain more understanding of pregnancy as well as fetal development.
Ergonomics (comfort & bio-compatibility): materials and dimensions of soft models were delved into to accommodate incrementing size changes.
Technology innovation: apart from acquiring information about e-Textiles from textbooks and internet, I also emailed Dr John Rogers (University of Illinois, America) directly to inquire about stretchable electronics as well as requesting for photographs of their experiments.
Design development and detailing encompassed model-making, material acquisition, testing, and final adjustments on CAD; which took over the last 3 months before final presentation and exhibition.
The biggest hurdle was compromising to medical safety restrictions and convincing physicians the potential in this design concept. The obstetrician opposed to the idea of making ultrasound a domestic application, as well as negating to the possibility of telemedicine formations. He presented me with the issues of ultrasonic exposure in relation to thermal effects in foetuses. This was a few weeks into the design development phase, and made all efforts seem futile. I strove for more research into this controversy and discovered that there are indeed regulations made on its practice and justified design modifications accordingly.
Another concern is also medical ethics that comes with personal use of ultrasound. This is still under debate, although my interviewees stated that all mothers want the best for their babies, and if it is something that can give them positive ongoing outcomes with a healthy baby then they will utilize rationally. I also had to stress the fact that PreVue is not intended to replace diagnostic ultrasound, but it may have help with early discovery of fetal abnormality.
Throughout my research phase, I was also told that sonographers get shoulder/neck pains from scanning through dozens of patients each day. Perhaps it can be used as an actual medical apparatus where all the doctor needs to do is strap on the belt, and diagnose the foetus in its context, without having to manoeuvre their arms in an awkward position whilst staring at an external screen away from the patient.
TEAM MEMBERS (1) :
Melody Yi-Yun Shiue, 2011.