It may soon be possible to stop babies dying in the womb. Thanks to a measurement to spot small placentas that can act as an early warning system, says study.
This breakthrough results from the efforts made by Yale University researchers in developing an equation to work out the volume of the placenta with a high degree of accuracy.
Writing about their work in the American Journal of Perinatology, the researchers have expressed the hope that their measurement could spot problems with the organ, which nourishes the growing foetus.
Very small placentas have been associated with foetal death, although many healthy babies are born of below-average size placentas and, conversely, sickly infants from larger ones.
Harvey Kliman, from Yale's department of obstetrics, revealed that he got inspired to develop an accurate means of measuring the organ after he learnt that it was difficult to gauge on ultrasound screens.
The researcher revealed that the sum involves estimates of the maximum width, height and thickness of the placenta to produce the Estimated Placenta Volume (EPV), and is reported to predict its actual volume by up to 89 per cent.
"The method works best during the second and early third trimesters," the BBC quoted Dr. Kliman as saying.
"I hope that the EPV test becomes routine for pregnant women," Dr. Kliman added.
The researchers believe that their work may help monitor pregnancies more carefully.
Patrick O'Brien, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, suggested that the proposition had potential, saying: "It would be most useful if the calculation could be made earlier on in the pregnancy, later on we have a good idea of the health of the baby just by looking at it.
I would like to see this as a study carried out on a large group of women to see if it does flag up problems at the outset. It certainly looks interesting."