Quantifying the interactions between maternal and fetal heart rates by transfer entropy

Faezeh Marzbanrad, Yoshitaka Kimura, Marimuthu Palaniswami, Ahsan H. Khandoker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence of the short term relationship between maternal and fetal heart rates has been found in previous studies. However there is still limited knowledge about underlying mechanisms and patterns of the coupling throughout gestation. In this study, Transfer Entropy (TE) was used to quantify directed interactions between maternal and fetal heart rates at various time delays and gestational ages. Experimental results using maternal and fetal electrocardiograms showed significant coupling for 63 out of 65 fetuses, by statistically validating against surrogate pairs. Analysis of TE showed a decrease in transfer of information from fetus to the mother with gestational age, alongside the maturation of the fetus. On the other hand, maternal to fetal TE was significantly greater in mid (26-31 weeks) and late (32-41 weeks) gestation compared to early (16-25 weeks) gestation (Mann Whitney Wilcoxon (MWW) p<0.05). TE further increased from mid to late, for the fetuses with RMSSD of fetal heart rate being larger than 4 msec in the late gestation. This difference was not observed for the fetuses with smaller RMSSD, which could be associated with the quiet sleep state. Delay in the information transfer from mother to fetus significantly decreased (p = 0.03) from mid to late gestation, implying a decrease in fetal response time. These changes occur concomitant with the maturation of the fetal sensory and autonomic nervous systems with advancing gestational age. The effect of maternal respiratory rate derived from maternal ECG was also investigated and no significant relationship was found between breathing rate and TE at any lag. In conclusion, the application of TE with delays revealed detailed information on the fetal-maternal heart rate coupling strength and latency throughout gestation, which could provide novel clinical markers of fetal development and well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0145672
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Dec 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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