Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 1340–1353 | Cite as

A Comparison of Single Channel Fetal ECG Extraction Methods

  • Joachim Behar
  • Alistair Johnson
  • Gari D. Clifford
  • Julien Oster


The abdominal electrocardiogram (ECG) provides a non-invasive method for monitoring the fetal cardiac activity in pregnant women. However, the temporal and frequency overlap between the fetal ECG (FECG), the maternal ECG (MECG) and noise results in a challenging source separation problem. This work seeks to compare temporal extraction methods for extracting the fetal signal and estimating fetal heart rate. A novel method for MECG cancelation using an echo state neural network (ESN) based filtering approach was compared with the least mean square (LMS), the recursive least square (RLS) adaptive filter and template subtraction (TS) techniques. Analysis was performed using real signals from two databases composing a total of 4 h 22 min of data from nine pregnant women with 37,452 reference fetal beats. The effects of preprocessing the signals was empirically evaluated. The results demonstrate that the ESN based algorithm performs best on the test data with an F1 measure of 90.2% as compared to the LMS (87.9%), RLS (88.2%) and the TS (89.3%) techniques. Results suggest that a higher baseline wander high pass cut-off frequency than traditionally used for FECG analysis significantly increases performance for all evaluated methods. Open source code for the benchmark methods are made available to allow comparison and reproducibility on the public domain data.


Fetal ECG Reservoir computing Template subtraction Adaptive noise canceller 



JB is supported by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Balliol French Anderson Scholarship Fund and MindChild Medical Inc. North Andover, MA. JO is supported by Wellcome Trust Centre Grant No. 098461/Z/12/Z (Sleep, Circadian Rhythms & Neuroscience Institute). AJ acknowledges the support of the RCUK Digital Economy Programme grant number EP/G036861/1 (Oxford Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation).


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim Behar
    • 1
  • Alistair Johnson
    • 1
  • Gari D. Clifford
    • 1
  • Julien Oster
    • 1
  1. 1.Intelligent Patient Monitoring Group, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Engineering ScienceUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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