Computer to Help Determine Potential for Difficult Birth

Birth is a natural yet still very complex process. The mother’s body and the baby work together to ensure the safety into the arms of mom and dad. As we know though – as natural and innate as the whole process is – it is not always free from complications.

Interventions such as forceps, vacuum or c-section are on the rise and it has a lot of medical professionals and individuals wondering why the increase. New computer software called PREDIBIRTH has been developed to help doctors better determine a woman’s potential for a difficult childbirth, including c-sections.

According to doctor Olivier Ami, an obstetrician in the Department of Radiology at Antoine Béclère’s Hospital, Université Paris Sud, France, “The mechanics of the human birth canal make for a very complicated delivery process compared to other mammals,” and so a newly developed computer software program, combined with an MRI of the fetus, was developed to help physicians better assess a woman’s potential for a difficult childbirth.

Dr. Ami and his team of researchers processed MR images of 24 pregnant women resulting in 3D reconstruction of both the woman’s pelvis and the fetus as well as 72 possible trajectories of the baby’s head through the birth canal. Based on these simulations, the program scored each mother’s likelihood of a normal birth. The PREDIBIRTH scores were computed retrospectively and then measured against the delivery outcomes for the 24 women involved in the study.

“The results in predicting dystocia [difficult labor] were highly accurate,” Dr. Ami said. 13 of the births were vaginal with no complications which were scored as “highly favorable” by the simulator. Three women had an elective c-section and 3 women delivered with vacuum extraction and had “mildly favorable” simulator scores.

The 5 women left in the study had emergency c-section births two had heart rhythm abnormalities and were scored “mildly favorable” and “favorable”. The remaining three in the study involved obstructed labor, all of whom scored at high risk of dystocia [difficult labor].

“An emergency C-section has six to seven times more morbidity and mortality than a planned C-section,” said Dr. Ami. “With this virtual childbirth software, the majority of C-sections could be planned rather than emergency, and difficult instrumental extractions might disappear in the near future.”

:: What are your thoughts? Do you think this simulator could be helpful or just cause a larger rise in C-sections? ::

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photo credit: Adapted from Kelly Sue on Flickr

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