Robust Fetal Heart Beat Detection via R-Peak Intervals Distribution

Chen Lin, Hui Ming Yeh, Men Tzung Lo, Chien Hung Yeh, Cheng Yen Wang, Wenbin Shi, Bess Ma F. Serafico, Chen Hsu Wang, Chung Hau Juan, Hsu Wen Vincent Young, Yenn Jiang Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Monitoring fetal heart rate during pregnancy is essential to assist clinicians in making more timely decisions. Non-invasive monitoring of fetal heart activities using abdominal ECGs is useful for diagnosis of heart defects. However, the extracted fetal ECGs are usually too weak to be robustly detected. Thus, it is a necessity to enhance fetal R-peak since their peaks may be hidden within the signal due to the immaturity of the fetal cardiovascular system. Therefore, to improve the detection of the fetal heartbeat, a novel fetal R-peak enhancement technique was proposed to statistically generate the weighting mask according to the distribution of the neighboring temporal intervals between each pair of peaks. Two sets of simulations were designed to validate the reliability of the method: challenges with different levels of (1) noise contamination and (2) R-peak interval changing rate. The simulation results showed that the weighting mask improved the accuracy of the R-peak detection rate by 25% and decreased the false alarm rate by 20% with white noise contamination, and ensured high R-peak detection rate (>80%), especially with mild noise contamination (noise amplitude ratio <1.5 and noise rate per minute <25%). For the simulations with continuous R-peak intervals changing, the masking process can still effectively eliminate noise contamination especially when the amplitude of the sinusoidal fetal R-R intervals is lower than 50 ms. For the real fetus ECGs, the detection rate was increased by 3.498%, whereas the false alarm rate was decreased by 3.933%. Next, we implemented the fetal R-peak enhancement technique to investigate fractal regulation and multiscale entropy of the real fetal heartbeat intervals. Both scaling exponent (∼0.6 to ∼1 in scale 4-15) and entropy measure (scale 6-10) increased with gestational ages (22-40 weeks). The results confirmed fractal slope and complexity of fetal heartbeat intervals can reflect the maturation of fetus organism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8664129
Pages (from-to)3310-3319
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Fetal electrocardiogram
  • fetal R-peak detection
  • fetal heart rate


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