UK & World News
Vasa Praevia: Ultrasound Check Could Save Lives
A couple who lost their baby to a preventable complication of childbirth are calling for all pregnant women to have a simple screening test.
Henry Samat died 13 days after a blood vessel in the placenta ruptured during his delivery.
Despite having a series of transfusions, doctors couldn't save him.
His parents, Natalie and Daren, now want the NHS National Screening Committee to order all hospitals to include a two minute check of the placenta and umbilical cord during the routine ultrasound scan that is done at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Natalie told Sky News: "At the time we were told it was a maternal bleed and nothing could have been done to prevent it.
"I remember Daren telling me when he'd done some research that it could have been prevented and it could have been screened for.
"The devastation of that - on top of losing your child - I just can't describe it."
The condition is called vasa praevia. Blood vessels in the placenta grow abnormally and can rupture when a woman's waters break or the baby starts to move down the birth canal.
At least one baby is affected by the condition every day in the UK. Women who have had IVF are at particular risk.
But the condition is easily spotted using normal ultrasound machines.
Women identified with the condition can be monitored with further scans and then have a caesarean delivery, with 97% of babies surviving.
Daren said the evidence in favour of screening is overwhelming.
"It does upset us that there aren't routine screening guidelines for vasa praevia, but we are confident that there will be," he said.
"It can be screened for cheaply without further training and without any extra time added to scan."
The National Screening Committee said in 2008 that there was not enough evidence to back checks for all women and there is a concern about over-diagnosis resulting in unnecessary caesareans.
A consultation will start next year with a decision due towards the end of 2013.
The West Middlesex University Hospital in London already scans all pregnant women for the condition.
Alexandra Drought, a senior ultrasound specialist, said: "In a unit of our size we would expect to see two or three babies a year where there is vasa praevia.
"We believe that is a sufficient number to try to exclude this condition. It is worth looking for to save that life."
Four years ago, the National Screening Committee said that checks could cause unnecessary anxiety for women.
But the West Middlesex said women find the scans reassuring.
And Natalie Samat said women already deal with anxiety from other checks in pregnancy.
She said: "The lifelong sadness you are going to feel having lost a baby far outweighs a few anxious months you will forget about when your baby is born."
:: Natalie and Daren Samat run the support group Vasa Praevia.