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J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2014 May;27(7):714-8. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2013.836485. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

Fetal heart rate patterns at 20 to 24 weeks gestation as recorded by fetal electrocardiography.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology .



With advancing technology it has become possible to accurately record and assess fetal heart rate (FHR) patterns from gestations as early as 20 weeks. The aim of our study was to describe early patterns of FHR, as recorded by transabdominal fetal electrocardiogram according to the Dawes-Redman criteria. Accordingly, short-term variability, basal heart rate, accelerations and decelerations were quantified at 20-24 weeks gestation among women with uncomplicated pregnancies.


This study was conducted in a subset of participants enrolled in a large prospective pregnancy cohort study. Our final data set consisted of 281 recordings of women with good perinatal outcomes who had undergone fetal electrocardiographic assessment as part of the Safe Passage Study.


The success rate of the recordings was 95.4%. The mean frequency of small and large accelerations was 0.5 and 0.1 per 10 min, respectively and that of small and large decelerations 0.3 and 0.008 per 10 min, respectively. The mean and basal heart rates were both equal to 148.0 bpm at a median gestation of 161 days. The mean short term variation was 6.2 (SD 1.4) ms and mean minute range 35.1 (SD 7.1) ms.


The 20-24-week fetus demonstrates FHR patterns with more accelerations and decelerations, as well as higher baseline variability than was anticipated. Information from this study provides an important foundation for further, more detailed, studies of early FHR patterns.

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