Researchers have warned that routine pregnancy examinations to check a baby is in a good position before birth are not sensitive enough.
He researchers from the University of Sydney had studied 1,633 women who were in their 35th to 37th week of pregnancy and were attending an antenatal clinic at a local obstetric hospital. The researchers had examined every woman in the usual way to assess the position of the baby, and were later made to an ultrasound scan to confirm the position.
The researchers explained that on simple palpation they had detected 70% of the babies who were not in the ideal head-down position but had missed the other 30%. The researchers clarified further that if these figures were to be applied to a general maternity population of around 1,000 women, the clinical examination would identify only about 101 women as having an abnormal lie, but in which case only 56 would this be correct and 24 women with abnormal lie would be missed altogether.
Questioning as to whether routine ultrasound checks would be cost and resource effective, she added that the exact long term effects of the scans on the baby are not yet known, and there could be a case of the doctors starting to rely heavily on the scans and becoming less skilled at physical examination. She said, "The use of scans as a second opinion, when there is difficulty in palpation, perhaps for overweight women, is already used. However, it is crucial that women are provided with unbiased information and with the choice about whether they have an additional scan or not."