Beta HCG(Beta human Chorionic Gonadotrophin) is a protein which is found in the maternal blood. It comes from the placenta. Between 10 and 14 weeks gestation, the level of beta HCG is usually higher than normal in pregnancies affected by Down syndrome. Therefore, we can use the level of beta HCG in a pregnant woman’s blood sample to determine whether the pregnancy is high risk or low risk for Down syndrome. The level of bHCG changes with advancing pregnancy so the level has to be correlated with the crown-rump length of the fetus before it is compared with the normal ranges for pregnancy, and the range for Down syndrome pregnancies.
Beta HCG levels are currently used with PAPP-A levels and nuchal translucency measurements to increase the detection rate for Down syndrome from approximately 80% to approximately 90%.
Of every 100 babies born in Australia about 2 or 3 have some type of significant birth or “congenital” defect. An additional two or three of every 100 have a minor defect. Most of these babies have parents who have no obvious risk factors, inherited diseases or ill-health.
A birth defect may consist of one of more abnormalities in:
· The body’s visible structure eg. A cleft palate or spina bifida
· Internal organ formation and function eg. A hole in the heart or a bowel obstruction
· The body’s metabolism eg phenylketonuria or PKU
· The body’s chromosomes eg. Down syndrome
· Brain functioning which may lead to physical disability as in cerebral palsy, ,or intellectual disability
Unusual bleeding is a common symptom in women of reproductive age. It can be due to a hormonal problem or due to a pathological problem in the pelvis. Ultrasound is the best way to detect uterine pathology such as fibroids, polyps and endometrial cancer.
Bleeding in pregnancy is always unnerving because it can be a sign of miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. However, it also occurs quite commonly in completely normal pregnancies. Ultrasound examination is the best way of knowing that the pregnancy is situated correctly in the uterus, and that the fetus is developing normally and has a normal heart beat.
Bleeding in late pregnancy is a worry because it can be a sign of placental abruption or placenta praevia. Usually you will know from previous ultrasound examinations whether or not your placenta is low-lying.
Ultrasound examination is the best way to determine the location of the placenta and whether or not there is an extra-membranous haemorrhage there. It can also tell you whether or not your cervix is starting to dilate. Of course it will also tell you whether or not the fetus is growing normally whether or not it looks compromised.
A blighted ovum is a pregnancy in which an embryo fails to develop. This is detected with ultrasound examination. Sometimes a trans-vaginal scan is necessary to be absolutely sure that there is or isn’t a tiny fetus there.
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