Stillbirths 'Could Be Prevented' With More Scans

1,500 Stillbirths May Be Prevented Each Year With The Introduction Of Doppler Scans

30.09.2014

A significant number of stillbirths could be prevented if women were offered more scans throughout their pregnancies, according to a leading obstetrician.

Speaking to BBC Panorama, Professor Kypros Nicolaides - the developer of the 12-week Down's Syndrome scan - said that in the region of 1,500 babies could potentially be saved each year if all expectant mothers were provided with the opportunity to have a Doppler scan.

Currently, around one in 200 babies (approximately 3,000) dies before birth in the UK every year, with many of these tragedies involving mothers with no known risk factors. A common cause of stillbirth is the failure of oxygen or nutrients to travel through the placenta properly to reach the foetus.

However, Doppler scans can monitor the flow of blood between the mother's placenta and the foetus, making sure that the baby is receiving all the nutrients it requires to grow healthily, while also allowing doctors to keep an eye on any problems.

Professor Nicolaides has carried out research into the matter, which he has now been asked to submit to the Department of Health by the government body itself, suggesting it may introduce wider use of Doppler scans in the future.

At the moment, this technology is only used to monitor high-risk pregnancies, meaning just 15 to 20 per cent of expectant mothers benefit from it.

Professor Nicolaides has been researching Doppler scans for 15 years and offers them to all women attending his NHS clinic at King's College Hospital in London, giving them the opportunity to have them at 12, 22 and 32 weeks of their pregnancy.

He explained: "We have demonstrated through extensive research that you can identify more than 90 per cent of [potential stillbirth] cases from the 12-week assessment.

"We can easily avoid them and we can do so through very simple adjustments in the way we deliver antenatal care."

Director of programmes at the UK National Screening Committee Anne Mackie said the organisation would be getting in touch with Professor Nicolaides to find out more about his proposals, adding "we always welcome new evidence".

Expert Opinion
Patient care should always be a top priority and it is vital vulnerable patients, such pregnant women and their babies, are able to access the best possible care available to them. The number of stillbirths in the UK is very troubling and it is important the reduction of these deaths remains high on the NHS’ agenda.

“This means fully investigating new techniques and technologies proposed to improve the treatment pregnant women receive. New possibilities for better treatment need to be taken into account and, where practicable, rolled out across the NHS, in a bid to reduce the number of stillbirths experienced by parents in the UK.

“We have represented a number of devastated families who have lost a baby at birth and it is vital everything possible is done to prevent more parents going through the same experience in the future.”
Julianne Moore, Partner