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Why I Believe Doppler Scans Should Be Available To All Pregnant Women

It is estimated that that over half of the still births in the UK could be prevented if the NHS implemented additional scans

19/01/2018 10:33 GMT | Updated 19/01/2018 10:33 GMT

In October 2009, in just a couple of seconds, my whole world, my whole being, had altered beyond any recognition. 

I was 34 weeks pregnant and had been enjoying pregnancy with no apparent issues for either myself or my baby, until one afternoon when my baby stopped moving. 

Noah would never move again after that day.

To be told that you have to give birth to your baby, knowing that there will only be a deafening silence as a result, is something which I will never be able to truly explain. 

The loss of a baby or any child, is a pain so all consuming, that you feel that you cannot breathe. I felt like I was searching for air for a very long time after Noah had been born sleeping.

In the truly horrific months/year(s) that followed I found the charity SANDS  (stillbirth and neonatal death society). They showed me that sadly, I wasn’t alone and that there were so many people who I could talk to who knew exactly how I was feeling. 

As the years passed, I began to raise money for SANDS in a bid to raise awareness regarding stillbirths and to provide much needed funds for their ongoing research.

And as time went on, I became more aware of the harrowing facts and figures regarding stillbirth and neonatal death in the UK. 

Each year, more than 3,000 babies are stillborn in the UK - one of the worst rates in the developed world. 

One in 200 babies dies before birth, mostly to mothers with no known risk factors.

Most parents are never given any reason or explanation as to why their beautiful child has gone. 

When Noah was born, we chose to have a post mortem and for my placenta to be analysed to try to find out what had happened to him. (This is obviously an extremely personal choice and decision for each individual)

Results showed that Noah was too small for his number of weeks; this is something that was not detected by any of my other routine scans. I had two ultrasound scans during my pregnancy, at 12 and 20 weeks,  which is as per the current national guidelines and is standard for women classed as “low risk”. 

As UK stillbirth rates have remained unchanged since Noah was born, and I continue to see more and more stories of heartbreak and loss from other broken mothers and fathers, I could not shake the question of WHY from my mind? How could this still be happening to so many other people?

My research led me to Prof Kypros Nicolaides and Doppler scans. A Doppler scan measures blood flow, making sure that the foetus is getting all of the oxygen and nutrients which they need via the placenta.

Prof Kypros Nicolaides has carried out extensive research surrounding antenatal care and in particular, stillbirth prevention.

His research shows, that over half of the still births in the UK could be prevented if the NHS implemented additional scans.

You can have a Doppler scan at the same time as a normal ultrasound scan, as it uses the same equipment. Therefore, the financial impact to the NHS would be minimal. Some hospitals have already decided to offer these scans to everyone, going beyond the national guidelines. 

So I ask the question, how can such precious lives,  be handled based on a postcode lottery?

So what about the risks of additional scans? 

As with all ultrasound scans, Doppler scans are safe in trained hands. When carried out by a trained sonographer, doctor or midwife, a Doppler scan helps to give a clear picture of your baby’s health and wellbeing. 

Therefore, used properly, Doppler scans are not believed to pose a risk to your baby in the second and third trimesters.

Previous research taken from this 2015 NHS report states that:

Stopping or reducing the use of routine umbilical artery Doppler ultrasound, or combination of umbilical and uterine artery Doppler ultrasound in low-risk or unselected populations is likely to lead to improved quality of patient care and improved patient experience through the reduced use of unproven and unnecessary investigations. This is in line with the recommendation in NICE clinical guideline 62, ‘Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies.’”

Speaking from my own personal experience, any potential “improvement to patient experience” following the use of “unnecessary investigations” will never outweigh the potential life altering discoveries that could have been found during my own pregnancy. I am sure that I speak for all of us who have an angel baby (babies), when I say that I would have happily had 50 scans, if this meant that Noah was still here with us today. 

Following the publication of this report, Prof Kypros Nicolaide has continued his research and continues to gain evidence to support his suggestions of change. Following his main research in 2014, the NHS requested that his evidence was submitted for consideration however, the national guidelines for antenatal care remain unchanged and UK stillbirth rates still remain as one of the highest in the developed world. 

That is why, I decided to start a petition for stillbirth prevention via change.org.

Help stop avoidable stillbirths by giving Doppler scans to all pregnant women.

Such a small change to our antenatal care, could prevent an immeasurable amount of grief and devastation to hundreds of families  every single year.

So I ask you, please join the other 88,000 supporters and sign my petition to help prevent others from experiencing the life altering loss of a baby. 

I do not claim to be a medical expert or an expert regarding Doppler scans but surely if Doppler scans are not the answer, then we must be look at other solutions and not continue to accept the current situation as it is.

I have no words for the impact that this loss has, and I would do anything to prevent someone else from experiencing it.

Thank you for reading.

Nichola