The Future of Pregnancy: Fertilization, Diagnostics, and Delivery
Pregnancy and childbirth have come a long way, but until the past century, the entire process was decidedly low tech and left the mother and child with a high risk of birth-related defects or even death. Until the last half of the last century, the process was ultimately the same as it was in the hundreds of years prior, only with better pain relief for the mother. It wasn’t until the invention of the sonogram and the widespread adoption of the epidural in the middle half of the 1900’s did the technology start to catch up with the process of birthing children.
For the past fifty-odd years, the technology surrounding everything from fertilization to testing and even the act of giving birth has improved, with more improvement looming on the horizon.
Here are a look at some of the newest and most exciting things to come out of this space in decades.
Infertility was once seen as a problem that was deemed either untreatable, or only treatable for the wealthiest of patients who could afford the often sky high costs associated with fertility treatments or even artificial insemination. In the last two decades, the technology has gotten better, thus driving the cost of these procedures down to where it’s affordable for most middle class parents. Breakthroughs in the science behind technologies such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Ovulation Induction, and Intrauterine Insemination as well as the ability to safely store eggs, and even whole embryos has made pregnancy accessible to even those who were previously unable to have children.
Among the most exciting breakthroughs in pregnancy-related science would be the advances made in prenatal DNA testing. Now, a doctor can order a noninvasive prenatal test to screen for the presence of Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) and Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome). The test is available as week 10 in your pregnancy and results are viewable in your healthcare professional’s office just 5 days after the lab receives the sample. This innovation in prenatal care allows patients with an increased risk of pregnancy to screen for the presence of trisomies.
The technology of childbirth or delivery has advanced to the point in which infant mortality rates continue to drop to historic lows. The use of cesarian section (nearly 30-percent of all pregnancies) as well as the increased use of the vacuum tube as opposed to the traditional forceps has helped reduce birth-related complications such as breech birth, fetal distress, placenta previa, cephalopelvic disproportion, and nuchal cord. These conditions often led to severe complications and sometimes death for the mother and/or child. In addition, nearly 40-percent of all mothers are now induced, even though evidence points to a medical need in only around 10-percent. The increase in inductions helps to reduce the risk of additional complications such as meconium aspiration that often take place in babies that are a week or more overdue.
The future is bright in all areas of technology, but as infant mortality rates continue to drop, the future of childbirth is becoming much safer for both mother and child due to advanced technology in this particular sector. It’s exciting to see what lies on the horizon in terms of science and technology and how both will affect the future of conception, labor and delivery.