Pregnancy and childbirth can be some of the most exciting times for parents, but the whole process can also be very daunting. Although we've made great strides at making the birthing process safer and easier for women, there's still a long way to go. Thankfully, advancements in science and medicine continue to help empower parents to take charge of their pregnancies with the tools and information necessary to do what's best for their families. Below, we explore three ways in which modern medical developments are doing just that.
Earlier Detection of Pregnancy
Wanting to know if you're pregnant as soon as possible is nothing new. The ancient Egyptians recorded a way of detecting a pregnancy and even the gender of the child that involved peeing on wheat and barley seeds. Although only about 70% accurate, modern researchers showed that the high levels of estrogen found in the urine of a pregnant womsn can indeed speed seed germination. Fortunately, pregnancy detection has advanced greatly since then. Today, pregnancy tests measure a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG, which is found only in pregnant women. For a few dollars and from the comfort of home, women can check if they're pregnant with over 99% accuracy.
Many parents are interested in knowing the health of their baby before they're born, and thanks to modern technology, this is now possible. Advancements in technology are allowing physicians to detect developmental complications or signs that are indicative of them while the baby is still in utero. Originally, prenatal testing involved a process known as amniocentesis, in which amniotic fluid was removed from the uterus through a syringe and tested for genetic abnormalities, lung development, infections and more. However, amniocentesis can be a risky procedure and carries the risk of miscarriage. A new method, noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT), allows for similar tests, including for chromosomal abnormalities, to be done with a simple maternal blood test and no risk to the baby.
3D and 4D Ultrasounds
A prenatal ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the fetus, placenta and amniotic sac, allowing doctors to make sure the fetus is developing normally. The technology has been around since the 1950s and used to only allow for 2D black and white images, but new advancements can create three-dimensional real-time images. Not only does this allow parents to see the actual face of their baby and observe their behavior, like laughing and thumb-sucking, but it also allows for a clearer analysis of the fetus and a greater ability to diagnose abnormalities.
As science and medicine continue to progress in the field of family planning and prenatal care, parents are becoming even more empowered to make the best decisions for their families and better prepare for their new arrival.
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