Journal Issue: Low Birth Weight Volume 5 Number 1 Spring 1995
Obstetricians are very dependent on technology in their practice of medicine. Sophisticated machines are used to visualize and monitor physiologic signs of the fetus and the uterus; drugs and surgical procedures are often used to help reduce serious illnesses and prevent fetal deaths. But has the introduction of obstetric procedures and technologies had a measurable impact on reducing the incidence and sequelae of low birth weight or preterm birth?
While it is difficult to determine what proportion of preterm births might be prevented by obstetric technology, it is possible to evaluate these technologies to determine which of them actually improve birth outcomes. Unfortunately, as in other areas of medicine, many obstetrical technologies have been adopted despite the lack of evidence of their effectiveness in preventing death or illnesses. As a result, some common interventions make little or no difference in outcomes, and some may even be harmful. Conversely, several effective technologies are underutilized, and this underuse also causes harm. The purpose of this article is to evaluate the efficacy of several obstetric technologies related to preterm birth and to summarize the impact that obstetric technology has had on preventing the occurrence of low birth weight or preterm births. We start by looking at the scientific evidence regarding several commonly used obstetric technologies and later discuss the overall impact that technology has on reducing infant deaths and preventing low birth weight births.