Scientists at Yale University have developed what they call a "gas gauge" that can help measure the volume of the placenta, and prevent pregnancy loss.
According to lead author Dr. Harvey J. Kliman, a research scientist in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences revealed that placenta provides nourishment to the fetus, and it can sometimes be so small that the fetus literally runs out of food and oxygen and dies.
Kliman theorized that in much the same way that an obstetrician uses ultrasounds to follow the growth of the fetus, or a pediatrician weighs and measures children to ensure they are growing normally, the growth of the fetus' placenta could be monitored.
With the help of his father, Merwin Kliman, a mathematician and electrical engineer, Kliman developed an equation that used the maximal width, height and thickness of the placenta.
He and his colleagues validated the method by comparing the volume predicted by the Estimated Placenta Volume (EPV) equation taken just before delivery to the actual weight of the placenta at the time of delivery.
"In this study, we showed that the equation predicted the actual placental weight with an accuracy of up to 89 percent," said Kliman.
"The method works best during the second and early third trimesters," he added.
In addition to validating the equation, the team is also collecting EPV data from centers around the world to create the normative curves that doctors can use to determine if the placenta is normal, too small or even too big.
"I hope that the EPV test becomes routine for pregnant women," said Kliman.
The findings have been published in the American Journal of Perinatology.