Why I took part in trial for MRI scan on my baby

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Being a first-time mum, I jumped at any chance to see my baby and check he or she was developing as they should.

I had read dozens of books and web pages telling me what I should be feeling at what stage and how my baby was growing – but there is nothing quite like seeing things for yourself.

Images from the Meridian study

Images from the Meridian study

So when The Star was sent details of a revolutionary scan study by The University of Sheffield, it immediately caught my interest.

The university is looking for volunteers from across the region who are at least 18 weeks pregnant to look at the role of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, scanning during pregnancy.

All pregnant women are offered routine 12- and 20-week ultrasound scans, but no medical test is perfect. However, the MRI scans are being offered as part of research called the Meridian Research Study, with the aim of assessing how much better these scans are at picking up foetal developmental brain abnormalities.

The trial had already scanned women with possible abnormal results and now needs expectant mothers who have had a ‘normal’ scan to take part.

Both my scans had come back showing that everything was developing well – and midwives were happy.

After discussing the pros and cons with my husband, I decided to sign up for the study. If nothing else, it would be a nice opportunity to get a glimpse of our bundle of joy – and another picture!

I’ve been lucky and until I’d fallen pregnant I’d never been in hospital before, so the prospect of undergoing an MRI scan for 30 minutes was a little daunting.

My husband, eager to see our baby again, came along to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, in Sheffield, for moral support.

We met with Paul Griffiths, professor of radiology at the University of Sheffield’s Academic Unit of Radiology, who explained all about the study and quickly put our minds at ease.

He spoke of the benefits the study – and most importantly, he stressed there was no danger to me or our baby.

The scan would only focus on the baby’s brain and a report would be sent to my GP.

The photographs of our baby may be used in any publication, but they would be anonymous – and even we wouldn’t even know it was our baby.

Another plus point, Prof Griffiths said, was that I could opt out of the study at any point.

But then I began to rethink the whole thing; Prof Griffiths said he was unable to guarantee the scan wouldn’t reveal the sex of the baby.

If it moved in a certain way on the video, then there was little he could do.

Although this may seem minor, we had decided to have a surprise and not to find out the sex of our baby. The thought of suddenly discovering it made me rethink things. My husband said we should leave things to chance and if we find out, then we find out. Surely it was better we help the study?

I don’t often say this, but he was right so I signed the consent form.

Then came the difficult part – lying down for 30 minutes for the MRI scan.

Despite being given headphones, the strange sounds coming from the MRI scanner were still loud and I struggled to hear my husband, who was trying to reassure me.

After what felt like 10 minutes, the scan was over and Prof Griffiths took us through to view the images.

It was amazing to see such clear images. Everything was forming as it should be and Prof Griffiths took us through the most significant pictures, reassuring us that everything looked good.

Then came the best moment. We were shown a 30- second video of our baby in my womb.

Prof Griffiths had told us stories of other parents who had seen their babies sucking their thumb and waving.

What would ours be doing? We shouldn’t have got so excited.

“Clearly undeterred by the loud noises coming from the MRI scanner, our baby had fallen asleep.

We could just about make it out moving its head and swallowing. Although only small movements, it was enough to put beaming smiles on our faces.

Prof Griffiths allowed us to take copies of any photographs we wanted and the video.

Seeing our baby so content was more than I ever expected when I decided to take part, but after seeing it I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders.

To see him or her so clearly was incredible, and knowing that I have helped the study, albeit in a very small way, is an amazing feeling.

I was given a £10 shopping voucher as a thank-you and the university paid our mileage – something it is happy to do regardless of where you live.

* For more information or to register your interest in the study, contact 0114 2713584 or email MRI@sheffield.ac.uk