Researchers using an MRI scan and a computer program have developed a way to predict if childbirth will be difficult or simple. According to researchers, the assessment could prove especially useful in cases where mothers are at high-risk for complications during childbirth. The study was presented, along with the software, at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in November. 

Due to the size of a newborn’s head compared to the opening of the birth canal, labor must proceed through a course of exact steps to prevent complications or hard labor, often referred to as dystocia. With the new software and an MRI scan, doctors can lay out how the birth process will go and essentially predict if labor will go as planned or hit difficulties along the way.

The new software is called PREDBIRTH. Twenty-four women delivery-complications-risk.jpgparticipated in the study. They all received MRIs and the images were turned into 3D images of the pelvis and baby’s head. This image was fed into the computer software that planned out more than 70 possible birth paths. Using the possible birth paths, the software then gave each participant a score. The score determined whether or not the birth was expected to end normally or with complications.

Thirteen women delivered normally. All of the women fell into the normal range after testing. Three deliveries ended in voluntary C-section due to the size of the fetus. Two of these women fell into the high range for possible complications.

According to Dr. Olivier Ami, “This goes beyond simple imaging. The software simulates the properties of potential deliveries. The results in predicting dystocia were highly accurate.”

Of particular concern is the fact that traditional means of measuring risk of possible complications simply don’t work. Women with narrow pelvises may have an uncomplicated childbirth with no problems. Then, there are women with wide pelvises who need help giving birth due to dystocia. This relative unknown is where PREDBIRTH plays an important part.

Researchers have no plans on using the PREDBIRTH to reduce the number of C-sections, but they do hope to reduce the risk of mortality associated with emergency C-sections. According to Dr. Ami, “An emergency C-section has six to seven times more morbidity and mortality than a planned C-section.”

Source: Radiological Society of North America. 29 November, 2011.