It’s a great time to be alive. Advances in technology make things that were seemingly impossible a century ago – or even just a few decades ago – a reality. This technology applies to nearly everything in our daily lives, so why should pregnancy be any different? Just a quick look around our homes shows technology that would have been straight out of the pages of a 1950s sci-fi novel.
So, what are some of the most exciting pregnancy-related breakthroughs of the recent past?
Approximately 7.3 million Americans in their reproductive years are infertile, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). This accounts for approximately 12-percent of the total parenting pool in the United States. Until just a few decades ago, there wasn’t much we could do about this.
Now, we have several methods that could potentially help a previously infertile couple conceive a child including fertility drugs, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Among the most sci-fi of them all is IVF, which involves removing eggs directly from your ovaries, mixing them in a lab culture dish with your partner’s sperm, and then implanting the embryo in your womb. Who would have thought that one day you could conceive a baby in a laboratory glass? In fact, that’s what “in vitro” means – in glass.
Equally sci-fi sounding is the ability to learn specific traits of your baby before he or she is ever born. Commonly, this is used in the form of prenatal DNA testing. This is a test that your healthcare professional will typically order for advanced age pregnancies (when the mother is 35 years or older), if there is a family history of genetic defects, or if there is a positive serum screen and ultrasound finding.
The test is done off-site at a lab, and only requires a small amount of blood from the mother in order to deliver a positive result for the presence of trisomies, such as: trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) and trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome).
Improvements in Pharmacology
Medical advances in pharmacology have also made it possible for women to greatly reduce the likelihood of premature births, cerebral palsy, and birth defects. By taking Progesterone women are less likely to experience giving birth prematurely, a condition that results often in brain damage or death. In fact, Progesterone has been shown to decrease the likelihood of premature births by 50 percent. Medication, MgSO4, further benefits mothers by helping to prevent Cerebral Palsy, especially in premature pregnancies – a feat that not even a simple medication would have been able to fix 15 years ago.
Greater understandings of supplements have also helped women receive better care and support in recent years. Folic Acid, a type of Vitamin B, has proven itself to be something of a supplement superstar for pregnant women. Taking 400mg of Folic Acid before coming pregnant and taking 600mg of Folic Acid during pregnancy can prevent 70 percent of all birth defects, especially spinal defects.
It’s a great time to be a parent. It seems that the technology surrounding motherhood is increasing faster than at any rate in history, and a future could entail any number of possibilities. If you think pregnancy technology sounds like science fiction now, imagine what will be possible in 20 years.