late stage ultrasound scans

A new study has revealed that thousands of caesarean sections could be prevented if women are given a late stage ultrasound scan.

The University of East Anglia and the Cambridge University carried out a trial, which revealed approximately 4000 C-section procedures could be potentially prevented each year. The research was largely carried out to help diagnose breech presentation, which typically results in an emergency C-section being performed.

So, how could a late stage ultrasound scan prevent unnecessary C-sections? Below, we’ll look at what the research revealed and why a late ultrasound scan could help thousands of women.

What is breech presentation?

Breech presentation is where the baby is facing the wrong way around. This means, rather than coming out head first during the delivery, breech babies will come out feet or buttocks first. This can cause a lot of potential issues for both mother and baby, in severe cases even resulting in death.

At the very least, breech births can lead to birth trauma and injuries. The trouble is, thousands of breech babies are undiagnosed. So, when the birth does arrive, an emergency C-section is required to safely deliver the baby. However, emergency C-sections also pose a lot of risks and the recovery period can be particularly painful and difficult.

The hope is, this new research will encourage more late stage ultrasound scans in order to give women an option to attempt to turn the baby prior to the birth.

Understanding the study into late stage ultrasound scans

The study involved carrying out breech scans on 3,879 women who were 36 weeks along in their pregnancy. It was discovered that 4.6% of those scanned had babies which were in breech position.

These results reveal that as well as potentially avoiding up to 4,000 unnecessary C-sections, late term scanning could also prevent up to 15,000 undiagnosed breech babies. According to experts, the scan would only cost the NHS approximately £12.90 per patient. So, it’s certainly a cost-effective way to avoid unnecessary C-sections and the risks they present.

How could it prevent an emergency C-section?

If late stage ultrasound scans can detect a baby in breech position, it gives the mother the opportunity to attempt to turn the baby before the birth. Hospitals and clinics can carry out a procedure known as ECV (External Cephalic Version).

This procedure involves placing pressure onto the abdomen in an attempt to encourage baby to turn. While it’s a quick and very simple procedure, lasting around two to five minutes, it can be painful. However, when you compare the brief pain of ECV to the potential pain and complications from a C-section, it’s definitely worthwhile! The procedure is said to work in around 50% of cases.

Although breech births are fairly uncommon, they can prove distressing and potentially harmful to both mother and baby. So, this new research showing how effective late stage screening can be is an exciting development. It is worth keeping in mind that screening within a month of the birth, rather than too close to it, will give the best opportunity for turning the baby in time.