Imaging Test Prevents Difficult Childbirth

Test can help women plan for Cesarian section

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many pregnant women worry that the joy and excitement of childbirth may be hindered because of problems during delivery. A new test can help predict whether the delivery will be smooth or difficult.

French doctors were able to accurately predict how problematic – or unproblematic – a baby’s delivery would be by looking at 3-D images that simulate the details of the birth. If a baby’s head and body haven’t turned into the ideal birth position, then the baby may be unable to travel safely through the birth canal.

If this happens, the doctor will have to take extra steps to help the baby, or perform a cesarean-section (C-section).

"3-D images can help pregnant women avoid emergency C-section."

Researchers at Antoine Beclere’s Hospital at the Universite Paris Sud in France looked at images of 24 pregnant women using new computer software and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), an imaging test that tracks a baby’s growth inside the womb.

The doctors were able to generate 3-D pictures of the mother’s pelvis and 72 possible routes through the birth canal based on the position of the baby’s head. Then the program gave each woman a score that predicted the likelihood of a normal delivery without complications.

“The mechanics of the human birth canal make for a very complicated delivery process compared to other mammals,” said Dr. Olivier Ami, an obstetrician at the hospital, in a press release. This test can help identify any problems during birth early on.

Of the 24 women, 13 women delivered without problems. All of these women had received “highly favorable” scores by the birth simulator.

Eleven women experienced deliveries with problems or intervention of some kind. Five women required emergency C-section, three had a scheduled C-section, and three delivered with vacuum extraction.The computer simulation had predicted these problems accurately, giving the woman scores of only “mildly favorable” or high risk” (of difficult labor). The problems the mothers experienced ranged from obstructed labor and head to too-big-to-deliver-normally babies.

Currently, doctors can attempt to predict whether delivery will be troublesome by measuring the mother’s pelvis, but it’s not very reliable. A small pelvis could deliver without problems, and a big pelvis may require help during childbirth, said Ami. Doctors have found the size of a woman’s pelvis isn’t the only determining factor.

About 1/3 of American woman give birth by C-section.

An emergency C-section has a six- to seven-times greater rate of sickness or death for the mother and baby compared to a planned C-section, said Ami. This software program could help reduce the number of emergency C-sections and increase the rate of planned C-sections.

Plus, it’ll give mothers a chance to mentally prepare for C-section, which will give them an easier, better delivery experience.

This observational study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 30, 2011
Last Updated:
December 2, 2011