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Placental Shape and Size Important for a Healthy Pregnancy

February 29, 2008 — Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital have found that a simple non-invasive real-time ultrasound exam looking at a woman’s placenta can help determine if she will have a healthy pregnancy. Ultrasound images (from top to bottom) of a healthy placenta (long and thin), an abnormal placenta (thick), and a damaged placenta
 

A study, to be published in the March issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that women with thin, long and healthy placentas can expect their babies to develop without any major complications, even if the mother has a low level of blood flow to the fetus.

“As blood from the mother enters the placenta, it brings important nutrients and oxygen to the fetus through the umbilical cord,” says Dr. John Kingdom, Principal Investigator of the study and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital. “More than 40 per cent of the high-risk mothers we see in our clinic experience low blood flow, and in cases like this placental size and shape is critical.”

The study, which looked at 60 high-risk women, discovered that when blood flow to the fetus was reduced, but placental shape and size was normal, the mother could expect a healthy pregnancy.

All of the women studied had low blood flow to the fetus caused by a family history of high blood pressure, kidney disease or cardiovascular disease. Fifty-three per cent of them had healthy placentas, and were nearly five times more likely to carry their babies to full term and five times more likely to give birth to a healthy baby.

“Doctors have non-invasive ultrasound equipment at their fingertips and can readily measure placental shape and size when they see a patient with low blood flow,” adds Dr. Kingdom, Mount Sinai’s Rose Torno Chair and Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Toronto. “The safety of all mothers and babies is always our top priority and we’re happy to be able to reassure mothers with functioning placentas about the future of their pregnancy.”

Women with low blood flow as well as abnormal placental shape and size are more likely to see complications such as pre-mature birth or still birth. A non-invasive ultrasound can help identify these women early on so they can be monitored and cared for appropriately.

Further research about how to treat damaged placentas is already being investigated at Mount Sinai Hospital.


About Mount Sinai Hospital

Mount Sinai Hospital is recognized nationally and internationally for its excellence in the provision of compassionate patient care, teaching and research. Its key priority programs are Women's and Infants' Health, Surgical Subspecialties and Oncology, Internal Medicine and Subspecialties, and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute. It is a University of Toronto-affiliated patient care, teaching and research centre.


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For more media information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Jodi Salem
Media and Communications Specialist
Mount Sinai Hospital
416-586-4800 ext. 8306
jsalem@mtsinai.on.ca
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