Teaching Pregnancy Ultrasound to Reduce Deaths of Pregnant Mothers and Their Infants in the Developing World

Project abstract

Women and children are the foundation of healthy communities, but nearly 500,000 women die in childbirth every year, most in Africa, India and Asia. Training local people to perform an ultrasound early in pregnancy would allow detection of life-threatening conditions (twins, ectopic pregnancy) and enable the woman to seek care in a hospital instead of attempting a home birth. An early ultrasound also provides an accurate due date for the pregnancy, which allows researchers to perform high-quality studies of pre-term birth and other pregnancy complications in low-income countries. Our team has trained about 45 midwives in Uganda to perform pregnancy ultrasound, and we believe that a video tutorial, in combination with hands-on training, would be an important educational tool to help new learners feel comfortable using the technology. This video will teach principles of pregnancy ultrasound, how to date a pregnancy and how to identify certain serious complications. 

We believe that teaching pregnancy ultrasound is a first, critical step in reducing the deaths of pregnant women and their infants in the developing world. Older ultrasounds are now making their way to the developing world, but healthcare providers lack the training to use them. Our video tutorial can be viewed on a computer or a cell phone (nearly 60–90 percent of households across Kenya have access to a cell phone, and the majority of the Kenyan middle class has access to a smartphone.)  Contributing to this project has the potential to make an impact on maternal and neonatal mortality now and for decades to come as more healthcare providers around the world learn ultrasound.

Why is this important?

Portable ultrasounds are becoming less expensive and more available as older, refurbished machines begin to appear in low-income countries, and this project would create the first publicly available video tutorial on pregnancy ultrasound. This work would also support invaluable research, laying the foundation for training midwives in pregnancy ultrasound in order to allow large studies of pregnancy in low-income countries. More importantly, a video tutorial would give tools directly to communities, so that they could reduce deaths of pregnant women and newborns. Our project also addresses how to educate new users of ultrasound technology before a training team visits a community for one week to help guide them with hands-on practice.