UEA and the University of Cambridge have conducted research that shows that the numbers of caesareans sections could be reduced by thousands every year by scanning later in pregnancy.

Research suggests that having a routine ultrasound at 36 weeks could reduce the number of caesarean sections performed by helping to detect babies in the breech position, further reducing complications during labour. Diagnosing the breech positions at 36 weeks into the pregnancy allows enough time for the baby’s position to change before going into labour, making the pregnancy safer. This procedure is called an external cephalic version, where the obstetrician places pressure on the abdomen and pushes the baby out of the breech position. The research team performed ultrasounds on 3,879 women in England having their first child at 36 weeks into their pregnancy.

The system currently in place is a physical check, the midwife feels the bump to establish the position of the foetus. Hospitals currently offer two ultrasound scans during pregnancy in the first and second trimesters. Depending of the health of the baby more ultrasounds may be offered. The new research supporting scans during the final trimester conducted by UEA and the University of Cambridge could save the NHS money as well as reducing the amount of complications.

Dr Ed Wilson from UEA’s health economics group stated, ‘We estimate that UK-wide routine scanning could prevent 15,000 undiagnosed breech positions, more than 4000 emergency caesarean sections and between seven and eight baby deaths per year.’


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