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Fetal medicine makes treatment of abnormalities in the unborn child possible

Medical advancements in heart treatments have taken giant steps and is poised to treat congenital problems in the heart of a fetus today. However, due to a severe lack of awareness in India about what problems can be detected at fetal stages, expectant mothers are in oblivion about the health of their unborn child. This leads to an uniformed decision and many children are born with challenges that could have been detected and treated even before they were born.

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In India where Fetal medicine is still an upcoming discipline, the pregnant women aren’t much aware about its scope from diagnosis to therapy. Fetal medicine pertains to the use of Ultrasound, genetic tests, MRI etc. in the pregnancy period to determine the health of the newborn. Though fetal experts in India usually restrict themselves to treating complications of Identical twins, bladder outlet obstruction , fetal anaemia , the horizon for diagnosis has touched the Western mark. The motive is diagnosis of birth and chromosomal defects as early as possible so as to offer a fair chance to the couple on deciding fate of pregnancy. Fetal echo-cardiography is one worth mentioning which can pick up most early manifesting cardiac problems in the unborn in expert hands.

Fetal medicine practitioners try to spread awareness and say that one needs to see a fetal medicine specialist if they have any of the following conditions:

• Recurrent pregnancy loss/ death of baby in womb/death immediately after birth or delivery before date.
• Mothers who’s blood group is Rh negative
• Known genetic disease in family
• Pregnancy with previous child or family member affected by thalassemia/ haemophilia etc
• Pregnancy with h/o fever with rash/chickenpox
• Pregnancy with Diabetes/high BP/heart disease//Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Sjogren’s syndrome, Rheumatoid arthritis
• Pregnancy with hepatitis/ cancer/seizure/organ transplant
• Pregnancy with slow growth of fetus.
• Pregnancy with previous history of structural defect in the baby in previous pregnancy or in the family
• Pregnancy with previous history of mental retardation or heart defects in previous pregnancy or in the family
• IVF conceived pregnancy

Latest studies reveal that approximately 3-4% of pregnancies are diagnosed with a fetal defect. This can either be a genetic defect or a structural defect. With a lack of awareness in mothers; lack of exact diagnosis and monitoring this can result in a severe mental or physical handicap in a new-born and can prove to be traumatic for the family and pose a significant mental burden on the new mother. So India, now is the time to look up, ask and use the available expertise to join hands for the healthy next generation.

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