New Tools Are Helping Doctors Make C-Section Calls

There's more guesswork than you think when it comes to labor and delivery.
ByKatie Lynch
Published
Mar 2016
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Photo: Shutterstock

There’s a lot that’s out of your control when it comes to labor and delivery. Even the most well-intentioned natural birth plan could result in c-section; in fact, about one in three deliveries today are c-sections. But researchers at The Norwegian University of Science at Technology (NTNU) are trying to eliminate some of that uncertainty, creating a more precise way for OBs to determine whether or not a c-section will be necessary. Their solution? Administer an ultrasound during labor.

NTNU’s study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, focuses on a model that incorporates ultrasound, rather than vaginal finger exams, to determine how baby should arrive—a judgemental call that currently varies wildly worldwide. And the ultrasound devices are much smaller than usual, about the size of a tablet.

“Errors occur in at least 20 percent of clinical assessments compared to only 2 percent using ultrasound,” says Torbjørn Moe Eggebø, associate professor at NTNU. Plus, he says this process is both more comfortable and safer than finger examinations. “Many women find it unpleasant to have a vaginal examination using fingers. Ultrasounds are performed on the abdomen and from the outside of the vagina. Using ultrasound in the delivery room can reduce the number of vaginal examinations, and probably also reduce the risk of infection during birth.”

Something else moms-to-be will appreciate? A better understanding of what’s going on during labor.

"The women also get information on how the delivery is going, and they’re able see images on the screen that show how the fetus is moving during contractions,” Eggebø says. “It’s easy to teach midwives and physicians to use these small ultrasound devices.”

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