Unsupervised Learning-Based Non-Invasive Fetal ECG Muti-Level Signal Quality Assessment

Xintong Shi, Kohei Yamamoto, Tomoaki Ohtsuki, Yutaka Matsui, Kazunari Owada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To monitor fetal health and growth, fetal heart rate is a critical indicator. The non-invasive fetal electrocardiogram is a widely employed measurement for fetal heart rate estimation, which is extracted from the electrodes placed on the surface of the maternal abdomen. The qualities of the fetal ECG recordings, however, are frequently affected by the noises from various interference sources. In general, the fetal heart rate estimates are unreliable when low-quality fetal ECG signals are used for fetal heart rate estimation, which makes accurate fetal heart rate estimation a challenging task. So, the signal quality assessment for the fetal ECG records is an essential step before fetal heart rate estimation. In other words, some low-quality fetal ECG signal segments are supposed to be detected and removed by utilizing signal quality assessment, so as to improve the accuracy of fetal heart rate estimation. A few supervised learning-based fetal ECG signal quality assessment approaches have been introduced and shown to accurately classify high- and low-quality fetal ECG signal segments, but large fetal ECG datasets with quality annotation are required in these methods. Yet, the labeled fetal ECG datasets are limited. Proposed methods: An unsupervised learning-based multi-level fetal ECG signal quality assessment approach is proposed in this paper for identifying three levels of fetal ECG signal quality. We extracted some features associated with signal quality, including entropy-based features, statistical features, and ECG signal quality indices. Additionally, an autoencoder-based feature is calculated, which is related to the reconstruction error of the spectrograms generated from fetal ECG signal segments. The high-, medium-, and low-quality fetal ECG signal segments are classified by inputting these features into a self-organizing map. Main results: The experimental results showed that our proposal achieved a weighted average F1-score of 90% in three-level fetal ECG signal quality classification. Moreover, with the acceptable removal of detected low-quality signal segments, the errors of fetal heart rate estimation were reduced to a certain extent.

Original languageEnglish
Article number66
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan
Externally publishedYes


  • autoencoder
  • multi-level classification
  • non-invasive fetal electrocardiogram
  • signal quality assessment
  • unsupervised learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering


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