Endoscopy During Pregnancy

Submitted by Medical Health Test Team on October 18, 2012

An endoscopy procedure is a procedure where an endoscope is passed into the body of an individual in order to visually diagnose a problem based on the abnormalities detected in the tissues viewed through the endoscope. The endoscope has a camera with magnifying capability as well as a lighting device attached to its end. An endoscopy during pregnancy raises many questions regarding the potential for the procedure to be hazardous to the fetus.

Endoscopy procedures in pregnant mothers are usually related to gastrointestinal problems. There are women who require colonoscopy procedures as well but the ratio of these problems is less than gastrointestinal problems. There are arguments made that the endoscopy procedure could cause complications such as bleeding, hypertension and can further exacerbate the condition, particularly if the stomach lining is extremely sensitive due to infection. There are also arguments that the procedures used along with an endoscopy such as cauterization may cause harm to the mother and potentially to the fetus.

The counter arguments to this are based on the fact that a mother who has gastrointestinal problems is likely to have trouble absorbing all the nutrients required because of the digestive distress. The mother is also likely to eat differently in order to cure her problem. This can lead to a reduction in vital nutrients to the baby. The ill health of the mother also has other physical and psychological effects because it causes hypertension, stress and a general feeling of ill health. Medications prescribed for people with digestive problems, including steroid based medications, are likely to be harmful to the child. Therefore, an endoscopy procedure to diagnose a problem is recommended as it will be useful to quickly cure the problem and return the mother to full health. The risks associated with an endoscopy procedure are of far less concern to a mother than the potential risks of the mother having an abnormal pregnancy due to illness or disease. Most endoscopy procedures last a few minutes and a diagnosis can be made fairly immediately. When the exact condition has been understood, targeted treatment can be used and this treatment can be modified in such a way that it does not affect the unborn child.

The debate over the safety of an endoscopy during pregnancy rages on. It usually boils down to the decision of the doctor attending to the patient as well as the patient's consent based on the explanation received about the procedure and its inherent risks.

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