NRL News

As Many as 400 Healthy Babies May be lost in Great Britain annually because of “false miscarriages”

by | Oct 21, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Research suggests that hundreds of women in England are aborting healthy and wanted babies because of unreliable scans for miscarriages.

A study in the international journal “Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology” has found that as many as 400 women may be aborting healthy babies each year in England after being incorrectly told they have miscarried.

According to the study, in cases of suspected miscarriage, typically doctors perform an ultrasound scan to measure the size of the gestational sac. “If it appears empty, or a well-developed embryo shows no heartbeat [and is less than a certain size], a diagnosis of miscarriage is made,” reports Rob Dabrowski. “If there is any doubt, guidelines recommend doctors re-measure the gestational sac seven to ten days later for confirmation.”

At that point, according to the recommendations of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, doctors will recommend either a surgical or chemical abortion.

However, the study, led by Professor Tom Bourne from Imperial College London, found that guidance were not based on good evidence. 

1,060 women from hospitals across London were monitored after they were classified as having had a suspected miscarriage. “By the time of their routine scan at 11-14 weeks, some still had viable pregnancies suggesting that they had been falsely diagnosed,” according to Martin Beckford, Health Correspondent for the Telegraph.

Why? The study found that there may be no measurable growth over this period of perfectly healthy babies and that when different clinicians measure the same pregnancies, research reveals a 20% variation in the size of the gestational sacs. And because of these variances, the researchers suggest that the “safe cut-off” limits need to be “significantly increased.”

“These papers reinforce the need for clinical staff to continue to exercise great care in the diagnosis of non-viable pregnancy to minimise the risk of misdiagnosis,” said Dr Mark Hamilton, a consultant gynaecologist at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

Professor Bourne told Dabrowski, “For most women sadly there is nothing we can do to prevent a miscarriage.  But we do need to make sure we don’t make things worse by intervening unnecessarily in on-going pregnancies.”

Bourne added, “We hope our work means that the guidelines to define miscarriage are made as watertight as we would expect for defining death at any other stage of life.” He called for the guidelines to be reviewed so ‘inadvertent termination of wanted pregnancies cannot happen.”

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Categories: Ultrasound