The non-invasive fetal electrocardiogram (fECG) technique has recently received considerable interest in monitoring fetal health. The aim of our paper is to propose a novel fECG algorithm based on the combination of the criteria of independent source separation and of a quality index optimization (ICAQIO-based). The algorithm was compared with two methods applying the two different criteria independently—the ICA-based and the QIO-based methods—which were previously developed by our group. All three methods were tested on the recently implemented Fetal ECG Synthetic Database (FECGSYNDB). Moreover, the performance of the algorithm was tested on real data from the PhysioNet fetal ECG Challenge 2013 Database. The proposed combined method outperformed the other two algorithms on the FECGSYNDB (ICAQIO-based: 98.78%, QIO-based: 97.77%, ICA-based: 97.61%). Significant differences were obtained in particular in the conditions when uterine contractions and maternal and fetal ectopic beats occurred. On the real data, all three methods obtained very high performances, with the QIO-based method proving slightly better than the other two (ICAQIO-based: 99.38%, QIO-based: 99.76%, ICA-based: 99.37%). The findings from this study suggest that the proposed method could potentially be applied as a novel algorithm for accurate extraction of fECG, especially in critical recording conditions.
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