A fundraiser luncheon, held in Cliff Townhouse on 8th June, raised money for a new research initiative, ‘SoundStart’, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, based in the Rotunda Hospital.

‘SoundStart’ is an obstetric ultrasound research and training programme aimed at building on the world-class work that is being carried out in the field of ultrasound research, in parallel with offering training opportunities to sonographers from all over Ireland.

Ultrasound has become the cornerstone of fetal medicine. For sick or at-risk babies, the pathway from fetal life to birth can be unpredictable. The ‘Sound Start’ Programme aims to explore this fascinating transition, in order to improve outcomes for mothers and babies.

Ultrasound is a technology that uses high frequency sound waves to create images, and it is safe to use in pregnancy, because no radiation is involved. With advancing technology, there is a wealth of information that can be gathered about fetal health.

Ultrasound helps answer major fetal health questions, like: Is this baby expected to need attention from neonatologists after birth, and if so, where and when should this baby be born? What is the best way for this baby to be delivered, that minimises risk for mother and for baby?

A critically important aspect of the Sound Start programme is to improve the provision of quality prenatal ultrasound services at a national level.

Prof. Fionnuala Breathnach, the pioneer behind SoundStart, says;

“Working at the Rotunda Hospital, we are continually reminded of the absence of fetal anatomy scan services in many maternity units around the country. We consider it to be a fundamental component of pregnancy care that all women are offered the opportunity to obtain a detailed scan that can detect fetal problems that will critically determine the health of that baby at birth. It remains a glaring disparity in women’s health in Ireland today that such a service in many parts of the country is only available to informed women with the means to pay for an anatomy scan.”

The ‘SoundStart’ programme hopes to provide training opportunities for sonographers, through providing access to up-to-date ultrasound equipment and learning tools in a manner that will facilitate the development of regional scanning services. The money raised through fundraising through the Rotunda Foundation will be used to equip a dedicated research ultrasound suite. This suite will allow doctors, sonographers and midwives to attend training in high-end fetal ultrasound examination.