Hundreds of women have healthy pregnancies ended by mistake because scans can"t detect the earliest signs of life

Hundreds of women may be losing healthy babies due to mistaken diagnosis of miscarriage
Home pregnancy tests are now so sensitive women who fear they have miscarried are attending hospital at an earlier stage than in the pastHospital scans cannot detect the earliest signs of life and may fail to pick up a present heartbeat, leading doctors to remove the early foetusUp to 400 woman may be losing healthy babies each year due to mistaken diagnosis, according to reportNew guidelines urge doctors not to operate to remove a foetus within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy

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UPDATED:

08:36 GMT, 12 December 2012

Hundreds of women may be losing healthy babies every year because they are incorrectly diagnosed as having suffered a miscarriage, experts have warned.

Modern home pregnancy tests are now so sensitive that women are discovering they are pregnant earlier – meaning many who fear they have miscarried are attending hospital at an earlier stage than in the past.

Because a hospital scan cannot detect the earliest signs of life, it may fail to pick up a present heartbeat, leading doctors to remove a healthy foetus, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Sensitive: Women are discovering they are pregnant at an earlier stage than in the past thanks to ultra-sensitive home pregnancy tests

Sensitive: Women are discovering they are pregnant at an earlier stage than in the past thanks to ultra-sensitive home pregnancy tests

As many as 400 women may be losing healthy babies every year because of a mistaken diagnosis of miscarriage.

Glasgow University's Mary Ann Lumsden – who helped to develop new guidance published by NICE today – said in more than half of those cases the misdiagnosis was the result of ultra-sensitive home pregnancy tests.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph the professor of gynaecology said she had 'seen mistakes made' by doctors who had acted too soon.

The new NICE guidelines urge doctors not to operate to remove a foetus within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.

Women should also be advised that they might still be carrying a healthy baby, even if a scan fails to detect any positive signs, the guidelines state.

Guidance: The report also urged doctors to be more sympathetic to women at risk of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy

Guidance: The report also urged doctors to be more sympathetic to women at risk of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy

Some home pregnancy testing kits, which detect early hormonal changes, are so sensitive a woman can discover she is pregnant before she has even missed her period.

Professor Lumsden said this meant some expectant mothers who feared they had suffered a miscarriage were attending hospital at a stage when it was 'impossible' to make a final diagnosis.

'Sometimes this leads to women having surgical intervention early on,' she said.

'Women are told that the pregnancy is unviable at a very early stage.'

Today's NICE report also calls on doctors to be more sympathetic to pregnant women in danger of losing their babies.

It
said doctors do not give enough information or support to women at risk
of suffering a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy – where the egg will
not develop into a baby.

Professor
Lumsden said: 'It actually does not cost a great deal to be sympathetic
and we try and get across that it is something that happens to a lot of
women, but for each woman it is a unique event even if it happens more
than once.

'We must
recognise people's distress. We do recommend that staff are trained in
dealing sensitively with giving information and that they get trained
repeatedly.'

Dr Nicola
Davies, a GP who also helped with the report, said: 'As a junior doctor,
seeing people bleeding in pregnancy every hour, we do become very hard
to it and do not give people time.'

According
to Nice, one in five pregnancies results in a miscarriage and 11 out of
1,000 are ectopic, meaning there are more than 50,000 early pregnancy
losses in the UK annually.

Between
2006 and 2008, six women died from ectopic pregnancies and two-thirds
of those deaths were associated with sub-standard care.

The
report recommends early pregnancy assessment services to try and
diagnose ectopic pregnancies, which are frequently missed by doctors,
and a 24-hour phone service.