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Ultrasound during active labour best predictor of C-section needs


The article reveals that women who have been evaluated as being “high-risk” using a maternal risk scoring system are ten times more likely to deliver by caesarean section than women who are evaluated as having low risk. The cause is generally because their labour progresses too slowly. First-time mothers consequently often need help giving birth.

Failure to progress in almost half of births

Among first-time mothers, about 30 per cent of deliveries go slowly. Labour can stop or slow down if the contractions are too bad, if the baby is big, if the birth canal is too narrow or if the foetus is in the wrong position. It is important to determine the main reason.

Midwives and obstetricians are specifically looking to discover “stargazer” babies, among others.

“Some foetuses are called stargazers because they’re lying face up in relation to the mother’s womb when they come out. These births often take a long time, and more often end up as C-section deliveries,” says Eggebø.

New model for birth assessment

To help midwives predict which babies need to be delivered by caesarean section, Eggebø and the researchers from Cambridge University have created a new model for natal assessment. The model includes information on maternal age, maternal BMI, length of pregnancy, how deeply the foetus has settled in the pelvis, how the foetus has rotated in the and to what extent the skin on the head of the foetus has swelled up.

All this gives midwives information to assess whether or not a caesarean section may be called for.

The most important issue is not to reduce cesarean section rate, Eggebø says, but to do the right C-sections at the right time. This requires greater diagnostic precision when a woman is in active labour.

May reduce the risk of infection

There are also several benefits with the use of ultrasound in the delivery room.

“Many women find it unpleasant to have a vaginal examination using fingers. Ultrasounds are performed on the abdomen and from the outside of the vagina. Using ultrasound in the delivery room can reduce the number of vaginal examinations, and probably also the risk of infection during birth,” says Eggebø.

Several studies have shown that women prefer ultrasound. “The women also get information on how the delivery is going, and they’re able see images on the screen that show how the foetus is moving during contractions. It’s easy to teach midwives and physicians to use these small ultrasound devices,” says Eggebø.