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Awesome Prenatal Advances

During the past month I have read about several amazing advances in the area of prenatal medicine.  Results of a long awaited $22.5 million study on spina bifida surgery were published February 9th by The New England Journal of Medicine.

A neural tube disorder, spina bifida can be reduced by up to 75% with a diet rich in Vitamin B6, so don't skimp on your Vitamin B intake before or during pregnancy. About half the babies in the study were randomly selected for traditional surgery after birth, while the rest underwent the procedure as a fetus between 19 and 26 weeks of pregnancy.

Results showed that the group that had surgery in utero "were nearly two times as likely to walk without crutches at 30 months", said study co-author, Dr Scott Adzick, chief of pediatric surgery at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  

Additionally, news came this week from Greece about the successful development of a prenatal blood test that could help women avoid the invasive procedures currently used to diagnose Down syndrome, a gene mutation that causes a form of mental retardation.

While currently used tests such as amniocentesis are only about 80% accurate and also carry a small risk of miscarriage, the new test (which is not expected to be available for a year or two), is believed to offer a 100% accuracy rate and can also be done earlier. Truly awesome.