If you’re an expecting parent reading this, you’re either going to or been prescribed a fetal anomaly scan between 19-22 weeks during the pregnancy. This is to identify any structural defects or markers for chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s syndrome, Trisomy 13 &18. SO…WHAT IS FETAL ANOMALY? As the name suggests, fetal anomalies refer to unusual or unexpected conditions in a baby’s development during pregnancy. This can either be a genetic or a physical defect in the fetus. WHAT CAUSES FETAL ANOMALY AND WHEN DO I GO FOR A FETAL ANOMALY CHECK UP? Birth defects can occur at any stage during the pregnancy, more commonly in the early pregnancy. There are a number of factors including genetics, environmental issues, exposure to chemicals or viruses can cause the anomaly. Fetal anomaly scan is usually conducted around 19-22 weeks of pregnancy. The aim of the screening and diagnostics is to identify potential problems with the pregnancy so that both parents can take informed decisions regarding the further management and are aware of the outcome. What are the types of Fetal Anomalies? Minor anomalies: These don’t require any further interventions. Are the ones that do not require any intervention or further testing but may require monitoring or surveillance. For e.g. Renal Pelvic dilatation, extra digit in hands and feet. Moderate: This group includes all other anomalies. They have implications of the physical or mental development of the baby. Some of this would require further testing with Amniocentesis or CVS and would require scans to monitor the condition. Severe defects: Includes those that are not compatible with life or have major implications. These include Anencephaly, Hydrocephalus, major cardiac defects or kidney problems. IS TERMINATION THE ONLY SOLUTION? Unlike popular opinion, termination isn’t always the resolve in the unlikely event of the scan indicating a potential concern. Not all birth defects actually require treatment; some, such as certain heart defects, may resolve on their own before birth. Others may need specialized care during delivery or soon after the baby is born. Rarely, treatment may be needed while the baby is still in the uterus. Explaining the same, Professor Dr. Shama Munim, Director, Fetal Medicine Center and Senior Consultant practising at Karachi’s leading healthcare institutes, South City Hospital explains, “People usually think that the only solution to a complicated pregnancy or a fetal abnormality is termination. However, this isn’t true. Our speciality helps parents take informed steps. There are also a lot of abnormalities which don’t have long term implications. Some might have long term implications but can be dealt with if the parents are counselled properly. The reason why I joined South City Hospital was because we have a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit which helps take care of such babies easily.” South City Hospital’s maternal-fetal medicine specialists, paediatric specialists, nurses and clinical educators are experts in caring for babies with medical issues. They are renowned for helping parents prepare for any special needs the baby may have, and offer support and guidance throughout the pregnancy and delivery.