What is Ultrasonography
Ultrasonography is a safe and affordable technology that has saved millions of women from pregnancy-related complications and deaths, but has, unfortunately and more commonly, come to be seen as a tool used primarily for gender-biased sex selection. Among women who had undergone at least one ultrasound, 80% went on to have live births. Contrary to common assumption, only about 5.4% women who had reported at least one pregnancy loss (still birth), spontaneous abortion and induced abortion) had also undergone an ultrasound.
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Role of Ultrasonography in Pregnancy
“Though the role of ultrasound for identification of sex of the fetus has been established, the linkages between pregnancy complications and the use of ultrasound have rarely been explored,’’ says Dr. Banerjee.
Survey on the Role of Ultrasonography in Pregnancy
Using data from the third round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), Dr. Sushanta K. Banerjee, Senior Director, Research and Evaluation, Ipas Development Foundation,and Professor Sanjay Mohanty, Department of Fertility Studies, International Institute for Population Sciences, examined linkages between routine pregnancy care, complications, and pregnancy loss (including induced abortion, spontaneous abortion, and still births), and the use of ultrasonography in India. The study is based on the experiences of 41,376 women who reported pregnancies over a period of five years and indicates that increased ultrasonography use is predominantly due to an increase in prenatal care. The technology has played a pivotal role in identifying complications and possibly helped in saving women’s lives.
The study demonstrates statistically high correlation between antenatal care and ultrasonography, indicating that women seeking antenatal care are more likely to undergo the scan to monitor their pregnancies. Additionally, women who were alerted about any pregnancy-related complications such as vaginal bleeding, convulsions, and prolonged labour are also significantly more likely to undergo scans.
The researchers conclude that ultrasonography plays a diverse role during pregnancy, one that ranges from monitoring the development of the fetus to identification of the sex of the fetus. “By enabling detection of pregnancy-related complications,this technology has played an important role in improving maternal health outcomes for women across the country and it would be wrong to solely associate the increasing availability of ultrasonography to the increase in gender-biased sex selection,’’ says Professor Mohanty.
While further research may be undertaken on this association, these findings strongly suggest that working toward curbing its use for gender-biased sex selection, doctors offering services to women during pregnancy should have unrestricted access to ultrasonography to monitor their pregnancies and prevent or manage complications. n