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Research shows benefits of 36-week pregnancy scan

Currently, women have routine scans at 12 and 20 weeks during pregnancy unless risks are identified and additional scans are required.  Recent research shows that introducing a third scan at 36 weeks could be a game changer for birth care and checking in on mum and baby.

Breech position 

When a baby is due to be born, their position in the womb should be headfirst.  On occasions, the baby is upside down with feet or bottom first and this is called the breech position.

Around 4% of babies are unexpectedly in the breech position at the end of pregnancy according to data and this means that they are at a higher risk of requiring admission to the neonatal unit following birth.  There is also a higher risk of brain injury due to their position, or sadly even death.

A 36-week scan would assist medical professionals by knowing how baby is lying prior to delivery and if a breech position is identified at that stage, it allows time for the medical professionals to try and turn the baby into a head-down position, by applying pressure on the abdomen.  This will then assist with delivery and minimise risk of baby being born breech.

Currently, if a breech position is suspected, an ultrasound is used to confirm if this is the case.  A 36-week scan would relieve pressure from midwives to notice this and minimise breech births generally.

Recent study 

A recent study at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust found that mothers who had a third scan at 36 weeks were less likely to require an emergency caesarean, 16% less likely for baby to be admitted to a neonatal unit and 40-77% less likely to have a lower Apgar score after birth.

An Apgar test gives a score for the health of the baby at birth, and is a routine test given to newborns, at one minute, five minutes and 10 minutes after birth, to check a baby’s heart rate, appearance, skin colour, reflexes, ability to breathe, muscle function and any other signs to see if extra medical attention is required.  The higher the score, the better baby is doing after birth and therefore a third scan at 36 weeks would reduce the chances of baby having a lower score.

Potential issues when a baby is breech

Sadly at Irwin Mitchell we see a number of cases where a baby has been born breech which could have been avoided and the baby has suffered a brain injury or sadly died as a result.  

As medical negligence lawyers, we support parents and families throughout this process.  If the baby has survived, we have specialist teams who support both baby and parents moving forward by aiming to secure early payments to help support the family financially so that they can obtain additional care. 

I believe a 36-week scan would be welcomed by lawyers, mothers and medical staff.  

At Irwin Mitchell we act collaboratively with hospitals to improve maternity safety by delivering training sessions and understanding pressures in the NHS.  However, sadly we still see cases where breech positions could have been avoided and we hope that with the introduction of a 36-week scan, safer births and healthier babies will take place and reduce the risk of severe health complications for both mum and baby.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by maternity and care issues at our dedicated medical negligence section.

Adding a third scan at the end of pregnancy could be a "game changer", a study suggests.”