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More early pregnancy check-ups may be beneficial, studies show

Recent studies have shown that screening for many conditions can be done from the 11th to 14th week of pregnancy, which will help to assess if the expectant mother is likely to develop complications.

SINGAPORE: For expectant mothers, the later stages of pregnancy are usually the most hectic as they have to make weekly or fortnightly trips to the gynaecologist for prenatal check-ups.

However, some studies are now suggesting that focusing more efforts on the first trimester can lead to better outcomes.

Typically, women go for check-ups once every four weeks in the early stages of pregnancy.

During the later stages, the frequency increases to fortnightly or weekly.

However, recent studies have shown that screening for many conditions can be done from the 11th to 14th week of the pregnancy.

This will help to assess if the expectant mother is likely to develop complications in the pregnancy.

Advances in screening technology have also made it easier for expectant mothers.

For example, a new non-invasive test is available to screen foetuses for chromosomal disorders such as Down's Syndrome.

Previously, doctors had to insert a needle through the mother's abdomen into the uterus and draw fluids surrounding the baby.

This process, called amniocentesis, is reported to have a small risk of miscarriage.

With the new Non-invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), doctors just need to test a sample of the mother's blood.

However, this test is only administered for those classified as high-risk.

Doctors also emphasised that NIPT is not a diagnostic test, and that expectant mothers still need to go for a confirmation test like amniocentesis. 

The feasibility of putting more focus on the early stages of pregnancy was discussed on Sunday by medical professionals from all over the world at a conference at the Raffles City Convention Centre.

They were attending the 10th International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology Outreach Course, jointly held with the 5th College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Singapore Scientific Congress.

The three-day event will see close to 600 attendees.

"Perhaps we should concentrate more of our efforts and resources in the earlier part of pregnancy -- in the first trimester, when a lot of diseases can be screened out, as to who are the high-risk ones who need more attention,” said Professor George Yeo, chief of obstetrics at KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital.

“A majority of people, the low-risk ones, do not need that twice weekly, once weekly (screenings). Towards the later part, that consumes a lot of resources." 

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