Ethan A. Huff
September 28, 2010
Ultrasounds can be a great way to monitor the development of an unborn baby, but improper use of them could have potentially fatal outcomes for the child. A new study out of Sweden has found that using ultrasounds alone to determine the gestational age of a baby girl could cause her to unnecessarily be born post-term, which in some cases can lead to death.
Dr. Alkistis Skalkidou from Uppsala Universitet in Uppsala and his colleagues found that doctors who use ultrasound measurements alone to determine the age of baby girls during their second trimester of development may mistakenly think those babies are younger than they actually are, and thus deliver them late. Babies who stay in the womb for too long face potentially serious health problems, including death.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
For the study, researchers compared two sets of data from the Swedish Medical Birth Register: one set from between 1973 and 1978, a time when doctors typically used women’s menstrual periods to estimate fetal age, and the other from between 1995 and 2007, when ultrasound measurements were more commonly used. They found that during the latter period, baby girls were 40 percent more likely to develop meconium aspiration, a potentially fatal lung disease, and 60 percent more likely to die during labor, compared to boys.
The team believes that “systemic misclassification” is to blame, where doctors simply rely on the size of the baby in ultrasound images to determine its age, rather than utilize multiple methods, including keeping track of the mother’s menstrual cycles.
Researchers are urging doctors to use both ultrasounds and menstrual cycles as evaluative tools in determining the age of unborn babies in order to reduce the number of mistaken post-term deliveries.
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