The following is a post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.
Starting a family is one of the most exciting times for nearly any mother. There are names to be chosen, baby showers to be had, and a nursery to decorate. There are also more serious matters to consider too, such as the care and treatment of a child during pregnancy and during delivery.
Only a few decades ago, women had limited options when it came to pregnancy. They were expected to give birth in the safety of a hospital, and if a child became ill during pregnancy, treatment was limited. However, recent developments in fetal medicine have provided women with more tools to ensure that they have options to care for their pregnancies to the best of their abilities.
If this topic affects you or someone you know, here are a few of the most beneficial advances you may want to discuss with your doctor:
Premature birth prevention
Premature birth roughly affects one in eight births in the United States, and can cause significant brain damage and even death. To reduce the likelihood of premature birth, researchers have been looking to hormones. Recent studies and research have shown that progesterone, a hormone naturally found in women’s bodies, may lower the risk for premature birth by up to 50 percent in certain groups. Not only does progesterone lower the risk of premature birth, but it also has been shown to decrease the complications and long-term effects children develop due to premature birth.
Noninvasive prenatal DNA testing
Prior to the development of noninvasive prenatal DNA tests, women had to undergo the highly invasive procedure of amniocentesis in order to receive prenatal genetic testing. Amniocentesis requires a woman’s amniotic sac to be punctured to withdraw amniotic fluid for testing. Although effective and accurate, amniocentesis also comes with a risk of infection, which could result in illness, disease, and even death – which resulted in many women avoiding genetic testing.
Noninvasive prenatal DNA screening tests only require a blood sample, and can determine whether or not a child will be born with certain types of chromosomal abnormalities. The MaterniT21® PLUS test, for example, determines whether or not specific trisomies, a chromosomal abnormality which occurs when a chromosome doesn’t replicate properly, are present. By learning in advance whether or not a child will be born with a chromosomal abnormality, parents can better prepare for parenthood by seeking out additional resources and tools they may need.
Fetal medical therapies
Although still in its infancy, there have been rapid advances in the area of in utero fetal treatment in recent years. Researchers have learned how to alleviate or completely treat several fetal diseases including anemia and fetal arrhythmias. Blood transfusions, shunts, and medicines delivered through umbilical cords are all procedures that have been developed and utilized by those looking to improve the treatment of fetal disease.
Diseases that once complicated delivery, forced women to have premature Caesarean sections, or increased the likelihood of brain damage or fatality can now be remedied. However, because of the high risks involved with premature rupture of membranes and complications of preterm labor, in utero fetal treatment is still evolving to better serve women and their children.
Understanding the medical advances surrounding pregnancy is a great way to alleviate the stress that is often caused by worrying about the health of your child. Diseases and illnesses that once greatly increased the likelihood of a negative pregnancy experience are being eradicated and overcome by modern medicine. Babies are safer than ever, and now have a level of care available to them that generations prior could never have dreamed of. Even better news is that these medical developments will only continue to advance to provide more improved care for children in the womb and the mothers who are carrying them.