Scientists from EPFL in Lausanne have developed a smart sanitary pad that monitors pregnancies – and could thus prevent millions of premature and stillbirths in the future.
Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age. In Switzerland, 33% of infant deaths occur among children born preterm. To perform a biomarker test for preterm birth, doctors usually require the woman to go through an invasive procedure by collecting a cervical swab in the hospital. Since 2018, the EPFL spin-off Rea Diagnostics has been developing a similar yet user-friendlier test that she can perform in the comfort of her own home. This will make months of potentially unnecessary hospital stays and overtreatment with medications a thing of the past.
Micro sensor in the sanitary pad
The non-invasive early detection solution uses an intelligent sanitary pad that analyses vaginal secretions during pregnancy and alerts the doctor through an app if there is a risk of premature birth and the expecting mother needs to go to hospital. The embedded micro sensor monitors a protein in the vaginal secretion that indicates a premature birth. As soon as the pad is removed, the data is transmitted to the patient's smartphone and her doctor.
Knowing when the patient will deliver makes a huge difference for the health of the baby.
Clinical research under way
Rea Diagnostics is currently validating the efficiency of its technology through clinical research conducted jointly with the Obstetrics Department of the Lausanne University Hospital, while continuing parallel research and testing the best solutions in its own laboratories at EPFL.
The idea of smart sanitary pads for the detection of premature births is also attracting international attention. Co-founder and CEO Loulia Kassem was recently named one of Forbes' Top 30 Under 30 in Science & Healthcare in Europe. Rea Diagnostics is also part of the Swiss National Startup Team for Venture Leaders Medtech 2022.