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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 10:39 GMT
Kit predicts time of labour
The kit could help end uncertainty for pregnant women, BBC
The kit could help end uncertainty for pregnant women
A device that could help women know when they are going to give birth could soon be available.

The handheld device uses a traffic light system to alert women that labour is imminent - with a green light indicating labour will start within 48 hours.

It is being developed by British company Jopejo. Hospitals are only able to give approximate due dates. This device would allow women to do a test at home to check for themselves.

Contractions can start as much as two weeks early, or two weeks late. And it is estimated up to 50% of women attending hospitals believing they are about to give birth are wrong.

The system's makers believe the device could become as commonplace as a home pregnancy test.

Electrical signals

The device predicts birth by interpreting faint electrical signals from the womb via electrodes placed on the stomach.

If the device shows a green light, the baby is on its way, BBC
If the device shows a green light, the baby is on its way
Deborah Withington, director of the Jopejo, told BBC Radio 5 Live it would work in the same way an ECG (electrocardiogram) measures how the heart is working.

They can either give a red signal - meaning nothing is likely to happen for at least two weeks, an amber signal - which means labour is likely to start within the following fortnight - or green - which means contractions are likely to start within the next 48 hours.

The device is still a prototype. It is currently being tested on hundreds of women, and is giving encouraging results.

Once on the market, it is expected to cost less than 100, and perhaps as little as 20.

Premature concerns

The device was the brainchild of two obstetricians, Dr Nigel Simpson and Professor James Walker.

Ms Withington said: "They were very concerned about pre-term labour, and the fact that if a woman comes in at 26 weeks with stomach pains, there's no positive test to say she is definitely in labour

"It's a massive drain on the NHS, because they dare not risk sending them home - but 50% of them will not have been going into labour."

She said it was then realised the device could help those women who went to full term with practical arrangements, such as knowing if their partner could go away to a conference or sorting out childcare for older children on the days they were most likely to go into labour.

See also:

02 Aug 01 | Health
New mothers 'neglected'
12 Jul 01 | Health
DDT link to premature births
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