Misdiagnosed Miscarriage

When a woman is diagnosed with a miscarriage, she usually has three options: a D & C, an inducing medication, or wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally. However, after reading many personal stories at misdiagnosedmiscarriage.com it seems that the third way, the “wait and see” option may be the best one, offering real hope that your baby may be alive and well despite predictions to the contrary.

Here are a few reasons that you may have been diagnosed with a miscarriage, when there is actually a healthy, developing baby inside.

Misdiagnosed Blighted Ovum: Also known as “anembryonic pregnancy,” a blighted ovum happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. Cells develop to form the pregnancy sac, but not the embryo itself. A blighted ovum usually occurs within the first trimester and a woman’s body tends to miscarry naturally. (Read more here: American Pregnancy.org)

It is possible that what looks like a blighted ovum may in  fact contain a healthy fetus.  When a Blighted Ovum is Not a Blighted Ovum is the personal story of a woman who had an ultrasound at 51/2 weeks, 6 weeks, 7 weeks, and 8 weeks, was diagnosed with a blighted ovum, and whose doctor strongly recommended a D&C. However she held out, mainly out of fear of D&C complications, and at her 9 week ultrasound found a healthy baby with a strong heartbeat!

If you have been diagnosed with a blighted ovum but are not experiencing miscarriage symptoms, you can choose to wait it out. Women with similar experiences say that up until 10 weeks is still to early to confirm a blighted ovum.  Misdiagnosed Miscarriage.com has many more personal stories.

Vanishing Twin Syndrome: First recognized in 1945, vanishing twin syndrome is when one of a set of twin/multiple fetuses disappears in the uterus during pregnancy.  The most common symptoms include bleeding, uterine cramps and pelvic pain, which are generally associated with miscarriage. However, in this case there is still one living baby in the uterus. No special medical care is necessary with an uncomplicated vanishing twin in the first trimester.  If the fetal death is in the second or third trimester, the pregnancy may be treated as high-risk.  (For more information click here: American Pregnancy.org)

Fetus without Heartbeat: Early on in a pregnancy, up to 10 weeks, it is possible that an ultrasound will reveal a fetus, but will not detect a heartbeat. Keep in mind that when a doctor or technician tells you how far along in pregnancy you are, this can also be miscalculated. At your next visit there may in fact be a heartbeat and a healthy fetus.

These are just a few situations of misdiagnosed miscarriages. There are many more to be found at Misdiagnosed Miscarriage.com, including misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancies, misdiagnosis after light or heavy bleeding,  misdiagnosis after slow-rising or declining hCG levels, and more.

One of the site’s moderators has the following words of advice for anyone who may have been diagnosed with a miscarriage:

1. Many of the stories will overlap. Often times the women who have empty sacs with hCG levels over 10,000 will also be told the gestational sac is big enough that a baby should be seen. They will also find their babies between, on average, 8 to 10 weeks although, as you can see, a few are even further along.

2. Often women with a tilted uterus will fall into a number of these groups. They’ll have the higher hCGs that will not be doubling (really, despite what your doctor may say, they are NOT supposed to double in 48 hours at this time but instead 96 hours or even more). They will also almost always be told they are one to two weeks behind even when there is no possibility of conception to have taken place then. Don’t worry, in the second trimester when you have your abdominal ultrasound, dates will be more accurate.

3. For women who fall in the “No Heartbeat Seen” category during the first trimester, we have been told you should wait at least a week and have a follow-up ultrasound to verify. Unless you are showing signs of infection or something is seriously wrong, ask to wait that week. As you can see, those little heartbeats can on occasion show up.

4. Women who have ultrasounds done by doctors are also frequently misdiagnosed much too early. Women should always turn down ultrasounds done by their doctors and only have them done by fully-trained ultrasound technicians. Research is showing that ultrasounds may not be as safe for our babies as we’d like to believe and you really do want a technician who knows what they are doing.

5. If you finally believe there is no hope and schedule that D&C, please, ask for one final ultrasound right before the D&C. We’ve had too many babies turn up at that ultrasound now.

6. Keep in mind, a number of women who were given no hope found their babies at nine weeks or beyond. Unless you are showing signs of infection or have a serious condition, eight weeks may just be too soon to have a D&C for a blighted ovum.

I am still adding helpful stories to this post. We just have so many misdiagnosed women’s stories here now that this is quite an undertaking in itself. As I add more stories, I’ll add more helpful information to this post.

I hope women find this post helpful. I am also hoping that once we get these stories ‘categorized’, we’ll have an easier time figuring out how to get the ultrasound literature changed so it reflects more accurate information. Also, if we can get doctors to realize that they are misdiagnosing too many women, maybe they can examine how they might handle these pregnancies differently.

Postpartum Danger Signs to Watch For

The weeks after your baby is born are full of wonder and worry. You may feel all sorts of conflicting emotions and uncomfortable physical sensations. Most of these physical and mental states are all within normal range, but sometimes there are complications. Call your health care provider right away if you experience any of these warning signs:

  • Depression: You feel extreme sadness or despair,  have delusions or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
  • Bleeding: Your bleeding isn’t tapering off, continues to be bright red after the first four days, resumes after slowing down, contains clots bigger than a quarter, or has a foul odor.
  • Fever: You develop a fever, even a slight one. A low-grade fever may be something benign, but it can also be a sign of a serious infection, so play it safe and call.
  • Stomach pain: You have severe or persistent pain anywhere in your abdomen or pelvis, or  afterpains that get worse instead of better.
  • C-section pain: You have worsening pain or soreness that persists beyond the first few weeks, or redness, swelling, or discharge at the site of your c-section incision.
  • Vaginal pain: You have severe or worsening pain in your vagina or perineum, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, or swelling or discharge from the site of an episiotomy or a tear.
  • Breast pain: You have pain or tenderness in one area of the breast that’s not relieved by warm soaks and nursing. Or you have swelling or redness in one area, possibly accompanied by flu-like symptoms or fever.
  • Abnormal urination: You have pain or burning when urinating; you have the urge to pee frequently but not a lot comes out; your urine is dark and scanty or bloody; or you have any combination of these symptoms. (Stinging after the urine comes out and hits a bruised or torn area normal.)
  • Leg pain: You have severe or persistent pain or tenderness and warmth in one area of your leg, or one leg is more swollen than the other.
  • Headaches: You have severe or persistent headaches.
  • Vision problems: You have double vision, blurring or dimming of vision, or flashing spots or lights.
  • Vomiting: You have severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Tenderness from IV: The site of your IV insertion becomes painful, tender, or inflamed.

When to call 911 (or local emergency number) instead:

  • You have shortness of breath or chest pain, or are coughing up blood.
  • You’re bleeding profusely.
  • You’re showing signs of shock, including light-headedness, weakness, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, rapid or shallow breathing, clammy skin, restlessness or confusion.

For more Postpartum information, visit Baby Center

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Newborn: Umbilical Cord Care

Umbilical cords are probably the least attractive part of your newborn, but they usually don’t cause problems and eventually fall off by themselves. You may be understandably worried when you notice bleeding or discharge from your newborn’s belly button. But knowing what’s normal will keep you calm and prevent you from running to call your doctor unnecessarily!

What’s Normal

Bleeding: For the first week or two, most newborns will have a bit of bleeding from the belly button before and after the cord falls off. You’ll see it on the diaper or baby’s clothes. You may notice it right away, or it might not appear until a week or more after the cord comes off. Bleeding is especially common if the cord comes off within the first week of life from accidental tugging.

Discharge: Almost all belly buttons will have some yellow or green drainage, which looks like pus, before and after the cord falls off.  This may go on for one or two weeks, but will eventually stop and is nothing to worry about. If there seems to be excessive oozing, your doctor can applying silver nitrate to help dry it up, but this is rarely necessary.

When to Call the Doctor

Bleeding: If you see dripping blood that reappears immediately after wiping it away, pack several pieces of gauze over the belly button (you can also use a baby washcloth or tissue). Keep the gauze firmly pressed against the belly button under the diaper, wrap him up snugly in a blanket, and wait for 15 minutes. Then undress him and carefully check for continued active oozing or dripping. If it is stopped, there is no need to call your doctor, but keep a close eye on it. Keep gauze packed on it for another day, and check it once an hour, even overnight. Some blood on the gauze is normal.

If the active dripping or oozing continues after the 15 minutes, you should call your doctor right away.

Discharge: Normal discharge looks like pus, but is not cause for worry. The only time you need to call your doctor is if the cord has become infected.

Here is how to tell:

  • The drainage smells very foul
  • The skin around the cord is very red and maybe swollen
  • Baby may or may not have a fever

If you think the cord might be infected, call your doctor.

Caring for the Umbilical Cord

It’s important to keep the stump clean and dry. Clean the area around the cord every time  you change baby’s diaper. Use a wet cotton ball or q-tip to wipe away any discharge. As of 2006, a research study found that that it is not necessary to put alcohol on the umbilical cord.

When diapering your baby, keep the stump exposed, which helps it dry out faster. You may have to fold down the top of the diaper so it doesn’t cover the belly button area.

When to give baby her first bath is a matter of some debate. It is generally advised to sponge bathe your baby until the cord falls off (and, when applicable, the circumcision heals), although other doctors believe that an immersion bath does not increase the risk of infection. Check with your doctor. If you are still seeing discharge around the base of the cord, it’s probably a good idea to sponge bathe your baby.

The umbilical cord will shrink and dry out just before it falls off. Don’t try to loosen it or pull it off. One day you will change your baby’s diaper and notice that it has fallen off on it’s own.

Source: Dr. Sears

feature image: Real Simple

Reasons They Won’t Give You an Epidural

Many women out there love their epidural! Epidural anesthesia uses an injection of drugs into the epidural space in your lower spine.  An epidural works by blocking the transmission of nervous system signals to your brain, thereby limiting or suppressing your feelings of pain.

Epidural anesthesia has become the most common form of pain medication for labor and birth, but it’s not for everyone.  Here are some common reasons an epidural might not be right for you:

  1. Your Body Type: Sometimes, the doctor has no easy access to the epidural space. Factors that might make it difficult to find the right spot include obesity, scoliosis, scar tissue, unusual spinal archtecture or previous surgeries.
  2. Drug interactions: Some medications, such as blood thinners, can make an epidural risky or ineffective.
  3. Existing health issues: If you have a low platelet count, or other blood disorders, there is an increased risk of internal bleeding in the spine.
  4. Timing: In some hospitals, anesthesiologists are available only at certain hours of the day, or certain days of the week. They may simply be busy and unavailable. Also, if you come into the hospital in advanced labor, or with a very quick labor, there might not be time to get an epidural in place.
  5. Infection: If you have an infection on your back, you definitely don’t want your anesthesiologist putting a needle through that area.  It might cause the infection to spread to the spine and other areas of your body, which could lead to major problems.
  6. Heavy bleeding or shock: Often, having an epidural lowers blood pressure. Therefor, if you are bleeding heavily or are suffering from shock, your already lowered blood pressure can make the situation even more dangerous.
  7. Hospital restrictions: Some hospitals have policies about when you can have an epidural. Some stipulate that you must be at a certain point in labor (for example, four centimeters dilated) before an epidural can be given. Others may decide that epidural should not be given after a certain point of labor (for example when you’ve reached full dilation).

Source: About.com

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Miscarriage: 10 Common Questions

A miscarriage (also called spontaneous abortion)  is the loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, but most often occurs during the first 13 weeks. Miscarriages occur in about 10-25 percent of recognized pregnancies and up to a surprising 50 percent of all pregnancies (meaning the woman miscarries about the time she would have expected her next period, without even realizing she had become pregnant). About 85 percent of women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy the next time.

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it is wise to be informed about miscarriage in the unfortunate event that you find yourself or someone you know faced with one.  There are different types of miscarriage, different treatments for each, and different statistics for what your chances are of having one. The following overview of miscarriage is provided so that you might not feel so confused or alone if you face a possible miscarriage situation. As with all pregnancy complications, the best person to ask questions of is your health care provider.
1. How do I know if I’m having a miscarriage?
Symptoms of miscarriage vary. For some women, the first warning sign of miscarriage is a feeling that they aren’t pregnant anymore, or sudden decrease in pregnancy symptoms.  If anything out of the ordinary happens, you should contact your care provider immediately.  A woman who is miscarrying may experience any of the following:

  • Minimal to severe cramping
  • Bleeding, ranging from light to heavy.
  • Signs of blood loss, such as weakness, dizziness or light-headedness
  • Mild to severe back pain
  • Intense abdominal pain or cramping, sometimes described as similar to labor.
  • Any discharge with an odor or clot-like material passing from the vagina
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

2. How is a miscarriage treated?
During or after a miscarriage, the main goal is to prevent hemorrhaging and infection. The earlier you are in the pregnancy, the more likely that your body will expel all the fetal tissue by itself and will not require further medical procedures. If the body does not expel all the tissue, the most common procedure performed to stop bleeding and prevent infection is a dilation and curettage, known as a D&C. Drugs may be prescribed to help control bleeding after the D&C is performed. Bleeding should be monitored closely once you are at home; if you notice an increase in bleeding or the onset of chills or fever, it is best to call your physician immediately.

3. Why did this happen to me?
It is normal to wonder why or even feel responsible, despite the fact that very few miscarriages are actually caused by anything in your control. Here are some of the most common causes:

Genetic: About half of all early miscarriages occur because of random chromosomal abnormalities or maternal genetic blood factors.  Unfortunately, such factors may not be looked for until a woman has experienced two or more losses. In such cases, it is best to seek out the services of a genetic counselor through the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

Anatomical: A defect in the connective tissue of the cervix or an abnormality in the shape or capacity of the uterus may be responsible. Scar tissue may impede implantation or development, and larger myomas (fibroids) may cause improper implantation or may draw blood flow away from the developing embryo.

Hormonal: Women with hormonal abnormalities may experience infertility, and when they do conceive they are more likely to miscarry. A short post-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle may lead to repeated miscarriages. The incidence of miscarriage also increases with age, from 15 percent at ages under than 25 years to 35 percent after age 38.

Immunological: Some infections or a specific immunity factor, such as “anticardiolipin antibodies” or antiphospholipid syndrome, may cause miscarriage. A medical professional would perform blood studies to rule out such causes.

Male factors: There are increased numbers of early pregnancy losses that seem to be associated with low sperm counts or with a high ratio of abnormal sperm.

Environmental: Research on environmental causes of early pregnancy loss are still ongoing. To create a healthy womb environment, women should eat a healthy diet and avoid smoking, drug use, excessive caffeine and exposure to radiation or toxic substances.  But even women who have used drugs or smoke or eat junk food can maintain a healthy pregnancy. The vast majority of miscarriages have nothing to do with the activities of the mother. Nevertheless, in the search for answers we often look to ourselves first.

4. How long will it take to miscarry?
Generally a woman will experience bleeding, which progresses from light to heavy, as well as cramping. The process may take one day or may last several days. If you think you’re having a miscarriage, contact your midwife or doctor. You’ll have a physical exam, and perhaps an ultrasound. If the miscarriage is complete and the uterus is clear, then usually no further treatment is required.

5. How long will the bleeding last?
If the miscarriage is complete, bleeding should last about a week, two at the most, with some minor cramping for a few days after the loss. The bleeding should never be heavier than the heaviest day of a period. If blood loss exceeds a pad or tampon an hour, or if bleeding lasts longer than two weeks, notify your care provider. It is possible to miscarry without much, if any, bleeding, as the embryo can be reabsorbed.

6. When will my period return?
Following an uncomplicated miscarriage, most women who had regular cycles will have a period within four to six weeks following the completion of the miscarriage.  If you had a spontaneous miscarriage without any prolonged bleeding, it is a safe bet that you would ovulate within two to four weeks after the miscarriage.

7. How long will it take me to recover?
Emotional recovery from a pregnancy loss may take many months. It is not unusual for a woman to recall the pain of a miscarriage her whole life. Physical recovery can depend on the length of the pregnancy, whether or not complications have occurred and whether there is any remaining tissue. In an uncomplicated miscarriage, physical recovery may take only one to two weeks.

8. When can we start trying again?

How long you decide to wait is a personal decision, made after discussing your situation with your care provider and your partner. It is important to take time to heal emotionally as well as physically after a miscarriage. Emotions– such as stress and anxiety– may affect hormonal balance, and waiting until you have recovered may also help you approach your next pregnancy with less apprehension.

Many healthcare providers encourage woman to wait at least a few months to strengthen the chance of a healthy pregnancy.  It takes time for the uterus to recover and for the endometrial lining to become strong and healthy again.  If a woman’s body isn’t ready to support a pregnancy by the time that she conceives again, she faces an increased risk of experiencing a repeat miscarriage.

Medically, it is safe to conceive after two or three normal menstrual periods if tests or treatments for the cause of the miscarriage are not being done. Some couples wait six months to a year before attempting another pregnancy in order to come to terms with their loss, whereas others feel there is no compelling reason to wait so long.
9. How can I support my partner?
Supporting your partner while you yourself may be grieving the loss of a son or daughter of your dreams can be very difficult. You need emotional support as well. Try to talk to your partner about the loss. While it will bring up fresh memories, it is best to communicate openly about your wide range of feelings.

Many parents want to find a way to help hold on to the memory of the baby they lost. You may want to gather together mementos, such as an ultrasound picture of your baby, your baby’s footprints or other items that help you feel close to your baby as you move through the grieving process.
Learn more from the March of Dimes.

10. How will a miscarriage affect my next pregnancy?

Your next pregnancy might not be as joyful as you would like because you’ve learned that life doesn’t always go according to your plans. You can’t say it’s your first pregnancy, but you also cannot say that you are a parent. The following are recommendations to make this time a little easier.

Prepare your body as much as possible for your next pregnancy:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy
  • Manage stress
  • Keep weight within healthy limits
  • Take folic acid daily
  • Do not smoke

When you become pregnant again:

  • Ask that your pregnancy be monitored carefully.
  • You may want to avoid early preparation for the baby’s arrival. Some couples request that baby showers be held after the arrival of the baby.
  • Sometimes people who are close to you are also emotionally invested in your pregnancy, and they will make suggestions about what you should do.  The easiest way to handle their suggestions is to listen, and then do whatever you, your partner, and medical team feel is best.
  • Your birth experience might be bittersweet because memories of your loss may resurface. You will probably need to do some grieving in addition to celebrating your new baby.
  • Your parenting may be influenced by your past loss, so moments of panic might occur, especially when the new baby is ill, or too quiet.
  • You may feel the need to protect yourself from more sorrow, so you might be cautious bonding with your new baby until you’re certain he or she is safe and healthy.
  • If you feel you are struggling, speak to your healthcare provider about possible support groups or counselors who could help you through this difficult time.

For more information:

American Pregnancy Association

iVillage: Answers to your 10 Most-Asked Questions

www.nationalshareoffice.com
www.mend.org
www.aplacetoremember.com

image from kenyfelix.com

After Birth: What to expect physically and emotionally

Information contained in the following article is from iVillage.com.

YOUR BODY

Giving birth is a strenuous and exhausting effort. Add to that few sleepless nights, engorged breasts, and recovering from stitches or a C-section, and you may feel like you’ve been run over by a bulldozer. Hopefully, your little bundle of joy evens out the scales and makes it all worth it.

image: blogforbrains

Severe fatigue: It’s essential to have help from family and friends. Although you’ve heard it before, you really should try to take advantage of daytime opportunities for rest (ie: when the baby is sleeping, you should be sleeping!) Avoid the urge to try and keep up with the housework or resume other tasks. RESTING will help your body recover more quickly.

Afterbirth Contractions These contractions indicate the uterus is shrinking to normal size, and are often strongest during breastfeeding (hormones associated with lactating also help the uterus return to normal size). Generally, after a first birth, these contractions are light or can’t even be felt at all. They become increasingly severe with later births.

Bleeding: Your body will shed the uterine lining over a period of about four to six weeks. It will initially be bloody, then thinner, pinkish and eventually yellow. It should not have an unpleasant odor.

Hair loss: During pregnancy, your hair may have seemed more luxuriant because hair-follicle growth became synchronized. Now your hair may temporarily appear thinner as this extra growth falls out. Increased perspiration is also common as the body loses some of its extra fluid.

Engorgement: Because your breasts are now supplying milk for your infant, breast enlargement and often engorgement occurs 3-4 days after the birth. Breastfeeding mothers can ease the discomfort by wearing a supportive bra, feeding the infant on demand and using acetaminophen. Bottle-feeding mothers should also wear a well-fitting, snug bra and use cold compresses.

Pain while Breastfeeding: It is very important to make sure your baby is latching on properly during feedings. Soreness is normal in the first couple weeks, but painful feedings are a sign that something is wrong. If you are experiencing cracked or bleeding nipples, seek the help of a breastfeeding consultant.

Vaginal Soreness: After stretching, tearing, or being incised and then stitched, the crotch area will be quite sore. It will be especially obvious while using the bathroom. The healing process normally results in a return to comfort within a few days. It is usually advised to wait 6 weeks before resuming sexual activity, as your vagina and vulva may feel dry and tender for weeks after any stitches heal, due to normally low levels of estrogen during milk production.

Extra pounds: Within the first day or so after birth, you’ll quickly loose about ten pounds. The remaining weight will be lost gradually, about 15 pounds in the next six or more weeks.  You may be anxious to have a waistline again, but women loose weight at different rates. Eating properly and exercising can hasten this process and add to a sense of well-being.

Your Feelings

image: crying baby tips

Because you are experiencing exhaustion, ecstasy, soreness, and hormone changes all at once, it’s important to understand your feelings and foster open communication with your partner.

Family Time: As a couple, you must decide on your level of interaction with friends and family. Some new parents want to spend time alone, bonding with each other and their new baby. Others relish visits with friends and family. Your decision may depend on the personality type and level of helpfulness. For instance, some grandparents are a pleasure to have around; others are critical, demanding or unavailable. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are resting or just not feeling up to have visitors at the present time. In most cases, they will understand!

Be Realistic: After birth, gourmet meals, fashion dressing and immaculate housekeeping are unnecessary. Allow your spouse or partner to maintain the household while you rest.  Accept any offers of help, even if you don’t normally feel comfortable doing so.

Range of Feelings: Your life has changed forever, which can be wonderful and daunting at the same time! Women may be surprised at the intensity of feelings associated with a new baby. You may be madly in love with your tiny, perfect angel. You may be in awe at the new life in your care.  But you may also be overwhelmed by the responsibilities. You might feel anxious about your body’s slow healing and return to your pre-baby figure and pre-baby routine. You might worry that you’re not doing things right. You might even swing back and forth at times. It’s important to have the support and involvement of loved ones. Online forums where you can chat with other women in the same situation can also be helpful and comforting.

Intimacy: Sex may seem uninteresting, even impossible, at first. The baby is hungry or needs to be rocked, you’re sore, and most of all tired. You and your partner will  need to be patient. Interest in sex comes back, proven by the number of second and third siblings in the population.

Warning Signs

Not all warning signs mean something is wrong, but they indicate that you should talk to a doctor or caregiver to make sure everything is OK. Use this list as a guide.

  • Severe persistent pelvic pain, especially with fever.
  • Very heavy bleeding or a malodorous discharge after the first few days.
  • Distinct area of redness and pain in a breast, especially if accompanied by fever.
  • Worsening pain or swelling of the vaginal area after the first few days.
  • The loss of sexual desire or pleasure is a problem for either partner.
  • Inability to carry out baby care; uncontrollable crying.
  • Morbid concern about baby
  • Paralyzing indecision about job.
  • Persistent depression.
  • Inability to sleep, eat and concentrate on performance of daily activities
  • Hatred of baby

We hope that your new baby brings you incredible joy and fulfillment, and that you are able to adjust smoothly to the new challenges and changes in your life! Visit the pregnancy & new baby pages at iVillage for more information on baby care… and new mommy care!

12 Benefits of Ultrasound

The first ultrasound is exciting, and each one, where the baby is a little more identifiably human, is anticipated more and more with each visit. By eight weeks the image resembles a lima bean with a pulse; by fifteen weeks the ultrasound image can show baby’s major organs; by the 20th week, the ultrasound pictures can often confirm the sex of your baby.

Twenty-year follow-up studies of thousands of mothers and babies who received diagnostic ultrasound have shown no apparent harmful effects. It is certainly safer than x-rays. There is a theoretical concern about whether the sound waves striking growing fetal tissues can cause any damage the cell. The National Institutes of Health Task Force on Diagnostic Ultrasound concludes: “We could find no evidence to justify the recommendation that every pregnancy be screened by ultrasound. In the face of even theoretical risks, where there is no benefit, then the theoretical risks cannot be justified.”

This means that, as fun as it is to see your growing baby on screen, the use of ultrasounds is really to check the baby’s progress and make sure he is developing properly. Dr. Sears lists 12 benefits of ultrasound:

1. Verify whether or not the mother is pregnant, when pregnancy tests and the usual signs of pregnancy are unclear.

2. Detect a possible ectopic pregnancy .

3. Obtain a more precise determination of baby’s gestational age when there is a discrepancy between uterine size and estimated due date. In the first half of pregnancy ultrasound can accurately date baby’s gestation within 7 to 10 days. In later months it is not as accurate and is useless for dating the pregnancy.

4. Evaluate baby’s growth if other signs, such as uterine size, suggest a problem.

5. Determine the cause of unexplained bleeding.

6. Confirm how baby lies in the uterus (breech, transverse, vertex) if the clinical signs are unclear late in pregnancy.

7. Detect suspected multiple pregnancies if mother’s uterus is growing faster than expected.

8. Detect problems with the placenta, such as placenta previa (the placenta being positioned too low or over the cervix) and abruptio placentae (the placenta is separating prematurely, causing bleeding).

9. Measure the amount of amniotic fluid if mother is losing amniotic fluid or not replenishing it at a normal rate.

10. Detect abnormalities of the uterus, especially in women with a history of previous miscarriages or problem pregnancies.

11. Detect developmental abnormalities in the growing baby that would influence where baby should be delivered and what preparations need to be made beforehand. Abnormalities of heart, lung, and intestinal development can, if detected early, alert parents and healthcare providers to deliver the baby in facilities equipped to begin management immediately after birth. Oftentimes, early recognition and early treatment can be lifesaving.

12. Assist in medical or surgical procedures: amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, trying to turn a breech baby, fetoscopy, or intrauterine transfusion.

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