Obstetrical care providers are given the task of delivering a perfect baby but sometimes that doesn’t occur. One of the most devastating challenges for a physician or midwife is to inform a mother that her newborn will have permanent injuries. Obstetrics is a specialty of the unexpected. According to WebMD, 6 to 8 birth injuries occur for every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. However the tide is beginning to change. Health conditions that used to have poor prognosis such as low APGAR scores and premature births are no longer reasons to mourn. Thanks to new technologies such as hypothermia treatment and umbilical cord blood, newborns that had a lack of oxygen prior to their birth can avoid permanent brain damage. And there is even more good news.
Pregnant mothers who are at risk for premature labor can now be tested with a culture called Fetal Fibronectin (aka FFN) that can predict whether they will deliver in the next 72-hours. If the FFN is positive, steroid treatments are immediately given to the pregnant mother to promote lung maturity of the unborn baby so that it will be able to breathe on its own.
The measurement of the cervix of a pregnant woman can help predict whether she will have her baby prematurely. If her cervix is less than 2.5 cm or one-inch, she should receive high-risk obstetrical care.
Spina Bifida a condition that causes paralysis because the spinal cord is located outside of the back as opposed to inside the spinal canal. This condition can now be treated with fetal surgery BEFORE the baby is born thanks to advance imaging of ultrasounds and screening tests.
“Perfection” at birth no longer dictates the quality of human life. I strongly encourage pregnant women to become well versed in these very progressive treatments and request them as needed. A less than perfect beginning can still have a happy ending.
Let us give thanks and rejoice.