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Adding routine ultrasounds at the end of pregnancy yields multiple benefits

Researchers found it can improve health for mothers and their babies

Photo (c) gorodenkoff - Getty Images
Health is at the forefront of expectant mothers’ minds -- both their own and their babies’. According to a new study, researchers have found a simple way to ensure expectant mothers are in good health in the later stages of pregnancy.

Researchers have found that incorporating additional ultrasounds at 36 weeks of pregnancy can benefit a mother and her baby’s health, and potentially save money down the line.

The added scan can prevent the need for an emergency C-section and also detect if a baby is breech, two conditions that typically aren’t detectable until a woman is at the hospital ready to give birth; either one could come with health complications.

Safety first

To see how added ultrasounds would be beneficial, the researchers performed them on nearly 4,000 women who were preparing for their first babies. Though based in the United Kingdom, the researchers’ findings certainly have implications for the U.S.

They found that should a 36-week ultrasound become routine, nearly eight newborn deaths per year could be avoided, as could approximately 15,000 breech babies and 4,000 emergency C-sections.

Of the women involved in this study, over 4.5 percent who received the 36-week ultrasound found out their baby was breech, and over 50 percent of those women had no previous notion that their baby was breech.

Having this information in the later stages of pregnancy allowed the women to either schedule a C-section or undergo a procedure known as external cephalic version, in which a healthcare professional flips the baby into the traditional birthing position. This information prevented hundreds of emergency C-sections and provided women with more knowledge and options in the last weeks of pregnancy.

The biggest concern the researchers found was the cost, but they argue that if the cost per ultrasound could be lowered, this initiative should be a no-brainer.

“Whether the health improvements are enough to justify the increased cost of ultrasound screening is still uncertain, mainly because the cost of ultrasound screening for presentation alone is unknown,” the authors wrote. “If ultrasound screening could be provided at low cost, for example by making it part of a standard midwife appointment, routinely offering ultrasound screening could well represent a good use of [National Health Service] resources.”

Health comes first

Pregnancy comes with several health risks for mothers and their babies, and a recent study found that women today are 50 percent more likely to die from pregnancy than their mothers were.

Recent studies have found that women who work the night shift are at a greater risk of miscarrying in their first trimester, while smoking during pregnancy greatly increases the risk of sudden unexpected infant death.

Overall, managing stress during pregnancy is key, both for expectant mothers’ well-being and the behavior of their babies.

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