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Procedure for problem pregnancies

January 22, 2009 4:12:09 PM PST
Suffering a miscarriage can be heartbreaking for a woman. But a procedure is helping reduce the risk in expecting mothers. This story is about women who at one moment are in the middle of a healthy pregnancy, and the next are forced to deal with the loss of their babies. The problem is called incompetant cervix, where the neck of the womb falls open and the baby falls out. Now, there is a way to avoid tragedy.

It's an all-girl afternoon at the Gate's home. Maryann Gates treasures these moments. She knows what it's like to lose it all.

"You wonder what could've been or what they would look like or where they would be now or what they would be doing," Maryann said.

Her first pregnancy ended at just five months. The twin girls she carried were healthy, but Maryann's body forced her to deliver too soon. Twenty minutes after they were born, Maryann's babies died. Maryann was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix -- a condition that causes 20 to 25-percent of second trimester losses.

"The cervix, just by gravity, falls open and the baby will literally fall out," saod Dr. Arthur F. Haney, an ob/gyn at the university of Chicago Medical Center.

Dr. Haney is one of a few doctors offering a solution called a transabdominal cerclage. He opens the stomach and places a band around the upper part of the cervix. The constrictive band keeps the baby in the uterus until it's time to deliver by c-section.

"If you put the abdominal cerclage in properly, it's virtually a guarantee that you'll deliver a baby at term," Dr. Haney said.

It's typically done before a planned pregnancy, but Maryann had the band placed while she was pregnant with her daughter, Katrina. The one-time procedure also allowed her to have a second baby, Isabella.

"They're my world and I would go through all of it 100 times again," Maryann said.

Most prenatal exams don't include checking for incompetent cervixes, so women don't realize they have a problem until they've lost a pregnancy. The transabdominal cerclage has a 95-percent success rate of a woman delivering a full-term baby.

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