Friday, April 12, 2013

Agent Orange still stokes fear in Vietnam's pregnant women
Concern about birth defects is deeply rooted in the country's recent history and has brought a surge in ultrasound checks
In the waiting room of a maternity hospital in Hanoi, pregnant women sit anxiously until their names are called. Many have been here numerous times to get an ultrasound scan.
Dung, 28, from a village on the outskirts of Vietnam's capital, is seven months pregnant. "Every month I come here for regular check-ups and an ultrasound," she says. "If you don't know you are pregnant and you take the wrong medication, birth defects can easily occur in the first three months of pregnancy."
"I'm afraid of my child's health, that's why I come for regular visits," says 30-year-old Nhung. "There are risks from birth defects mainly from the environment, and infectious diseases passed from mother to child."
In most European countries it is national policy for hospitals to offer at least one ultrasound during pregnancy to detect the date of delivery and any abnormalities. However, in developing countries the use of scanning has increased as it is vigorously promoted by manufacturers and doctors.
In Vietnam the marketing and use of obstetric ultrasound is spreading, according to anthropologist and Vietnam researcher Tine Gammeltoft from the University of Copenhagen. In a highly patriarchal society, many seek scans to determine the sex of their baby, but this is only necessary once or twice and repeated scans are due primarily to a fear of birth defects.

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