Teaching Pregnancy Ultrasound to Reduce Deaths of Pregnant Mothers and Their Infants in the Developing World

Women's Health, Radiology, Global Health
$3,289 raised
of $25,000 goal
Funding has ended
Medium Medium

About the Researcher

Kristina Adams Waldorf, M.D.
UW Medicine
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Robert Nathan, M.D., M.P.H.
UW Medicine
Department of Radiology

Read Kristina & Robert's Story

Project Timeline:

May 2013

Less than 6 months

What your donation will fund:

  • $12,500 raised:
    Production costs for half of video tutorial
  • $25,000 raised:
    Production costs for full video tutorial

Project donors:

  • Julian Huppert
  • Jessica Stanton
  • Anonymous
  • John Nosta
  • Anonymous
  • Ana Andre
  • melissa jacobs
  • Sara Vanderhoff
  • Adil Lalani
  • Anonymous
Show All
  • Amanda Van Epps
  • Amy Greene
  • Julian Finkelstein
  • NW Industrial and Foundry Supply
  • Brittney Jensen
  • Nina Viele
  • Allison Faye Nelson
  • Lisa Erickson
  • Robert Nathan
  • Anonymous
  • Reiko Osaki
  • Laurie Van Alstyne
  • Emily Merrill
  • Lucy Kalanithi
  • Tracy Borlaug
  • Colette Janning
  • Elizabeth DeNoma
  • Michael Cummings
  • Victoria Groom
  • Anonymous
  • Lee Ritter
  • Emily Kalanithi
  • Jessica Olifson
  • Anonymous
  • Anne Stevens
  • Andrew Fruits
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Kristina Adams Waldorf
  • Ann-Charlotte Gavel Adams
  • Colby Holtshouse
  • Anonymous
  • Lea Bonnecaze
  • Samantha Pike
  • Kane Larson
  • Anonymous
  • C.J. James
  • overview
  • researcher
  • updates

Project abstract

Women and children are the foundation of healthy communities, but nearly 500,000 women die in childbirth every year, most in Africa, India and Asia. Training local people to perform an ultrasound early in pregnancy would allow detection of life-threatening conditions (twins, ectopic pregnancy) and enable the woman to seek care in a hospital instead of attempting a home birth. An early ultrasound also provides an accurate due date for the pregnancy, which allows researchers to perform high-quality studies of pre-term birth and other pregnancy complications in low-income countries. Our team has trained about 45 midwives in Uganda to perform pregnancy ultrasound, and we believe that a video tutorial, in combination with hands-on training, would be an important educational tool to help new learners feel comfortable using the technology. We propose creating the first publicly available video tutorial, based on our seven-hour ultrasound curriculum, to be featured on YouTube. This video will teach principles of pregnancy ultrasound, how to date a pregnancy and how to identify certain serious complications. Once the video tutorial is created, we will pilot the series in Uganda and Western Kenya in combination with hands-on training. 

We believe that teaching pregnancy ultrasound is a first, critical step in reducing the deaths of pregnant women and their infants in the developing world. Older ultrasounds are now making their way to the developing world, but healthcare providers lack the training to use them. Our video tutorial could be viewed on a computer or a cell phone (nearly 60–90 percent of households across Kenya have access to a cell phone, and the majority of the Kenyan middle class has access to a smartphone.)  Contributing to this project has the potential to make an impact on maternal and neonatal mortality now and for decades to come as more healthcare providers around the world learn ultrasound.

Why is this important?

Portable ultrasounds are becoming less expensive and more available as older, refurbished machines begin to appear in low-income countries, and this project would create the first publicly available video tutorial on pregnancy ultrasound. This work would also support invaluable research, laying the foundation for training midwives in pregnancy ultrasound in order to allow large studies of pregnancy in low-income countries. More importantly, a video tutorial would give tools directly to communities, so that they could reduce deaths of pregnant women and newborns. Our project also addresses how to educate new users of ultrasound technology before a training team visits a community for one week to help guide them with hands-on practice.

Who will benefit from the results of this project?

The first population to benefit would be pregnant women in Western Kenya, where we will begin training midwives to perform ultrasound at three sites. We will also pilot the tutorial on our current users in Uganda. We would like to expand the use of this video to other places in the developing world — Mexico, for example — where we can leverage other grant support to offer hands-on ultrasound training after the video tutorial is created. 

Kristina Adams Waldorf, M.D. & Robert Nathan, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Adams Waldorf

As an obstetrician, I have seen the heartache and grief experienced by families when a baby is born too early and becomes sick or dies. A baby has the best start in life when born near the due date. I am committed to research to prevent preterm birth and to give each baby the chance to develop to their full potential. Teaching ultrasound in the developing world enables large studies of preterm birth in countries with the greatest need.

I research preterm birth and I am expanding my studies to include pregnant women in Western Kenya and Africa. Accurate pregnancy dating with early ultrasound is critical for the identification of preterm births in our studies and also serves the purpose of identifying pregnancy complications that may be fatal for the mother if she attempts a home birth.

Dr. Nathan

In trips to sub-Saharan Africa, we saw the incredible challenges midwives faced practicing obstetrics in remote locations and we searched for a way to have a significant impact. Since then, our team at the University of Washington has placed low-cost ultrasound equipment in the hands of midwives in rural Uganda and has trained them to use it effectively. The videos will make these valuable ultrasound skills available to many midwives and other healthcare providers who would not otherwise have access to training. We believe that the use of ultrasound will dramatically improve maternal and newborn health in these challenging environments.

We have no funding for this project, and Consano funding would raise 100 percent of the resources necessary to produce this video ultrasound tutorial. The slides and curriculum have already been developed and pilot-tested with 40 midwives in Ghana. Funding would allow us to significantly improve this existing curriculum, then create the online video tutorial. We would pilot test the video tutorial in Ghana and Western Kenya.

Education & Training

Kristina Adams Waldorf, M.D.

Year Institution Degree Field
2003 Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass. Reproductive Biology
2002 University of Washington Residency Obstetrics & Gynecology
1999 University of Washington Internship Obstetrics & Gynecology
1998 Mayo Medical School M.D. Medicine
1994 University of Washington B.S. Cell & Molecular Biology

Robert Nathan, M.D., M.P.H.

Year Institution Degree Field
1982 Harbor/UCLA Medical Center Fellowship Computed Tomography and Ultrasound
1981 Harbor/UCLA Medical Center Residency Radiology
1978 UCLA Internship Pediatrics
1977 University of Oklahoma M.D. Medicine
1971 Duke University B.A. History

Awards & Leadership

Kristina Adams Waldorf, M.D.

Year Award/Position
2012 Invited speaker to the 2012 Women’s Reproductive Health Research Symposium as a past distinguished scholar. Three selected from 188 past scholars
2012 Ad hoc National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant reviewer for several study sections
2010 Platform presentation, 2010 Pediatric Academic Society (senior author)
2010 “Outstanding Reviewer,” awarded by the editors of American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (rated in top 5 percent out of nearly 2,000 reviewers)
2009 Frontiers in Reproduction Distinguished Alumni Award
2007 Oral presentation, president’s plenary session, Society for Gynecologic Investigation
2003 Frontiers in Reproduction Scholar, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass.
2002 Washington State Obstetrical Association Research Award
1994 Mayo Medical School Merit Scholar
1994 Bachelor of Science with Honors, magna cum laude

Project Complete!

Apr 29, 2015

Hi everyone,

I wanted to let you know that our Consano-funded project to develop ultrasound training videos for health care providers in low- and middle-income countries is now complete.  The training videos can be found on our website: 

There are 17 training videos that last between 20 and 45 minutes covering many aspects of pregnancy ultrasound. The course teaches all the concepts typically taught in obstetrics & gynecology residency, but also go beyond by including training on identifying ectopic pregnancies and birth defects.  All of the videos are targeted to teaching providers in low- and middle-income countries, who are unlikely to have any experience with ultrasound.  The concepts are presented very clearly with excellent examples of a range of normal and abnormal ultrasound findings.
We are very grateful for the funding we received via Consano, and we would like to thank you for your support.  Creation of the videos were truly a group effort!

+ Read full update

Video Production begins in January

Dec 23, 2013

Dr. Nathan and I are excited to announce that we will begin producing the first pregnancy ultrasound videos in January.  The University of Washington Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies (ISIS) will partner with us to produce the videos.  When we post the first videos on YouTube, we will send you a link so that you can see the product.  It is very exciting to be part of a project that has the potential to help many thousands of women.  Thank you again for your support.

+ Read full update

Thank-you & continue to spread the word!

Sep 04, 2013

Dear Funders,
We want to thank you for supporting our project to create publicly available videos to teach ultrasound to prevent maternal deaths in low-income countries.  We are still fundraising – please help us to spread the word!
Rob and Kristina continue to look for other avenues of support to help complete this project.  Kristina (in collaboration with a large team) has just received a $1.4 million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth to study preterm birth in low-income countries.  Performing early ultrasound will be critical to this project to help date the pregnancy and identify dangerous conditions that might help save the mother’s life if she delivered in a hospital (and not at home).
We are also exploring collaboration with the University of Washington Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies (ISIS).  A video library of how to perform pregnancy ultrasound would also be valuable for their learners. 
Thank you for your support!  We will continue looking for collaborators and other funding sources to help get us to our goal.  In the meantime, we will start on our first video.
Kristina and Rob

+ Read full update

Additional Project Details

Mar 27, 2013

In our projects in Uganda, referral facilities were identified prior to initiation of training. These referral facilities are staffed and equipped to deal with OB emergencies as well as routine deliveries and scheduled cesarean sections. The midwives who we trained to perform screening OB ultrasound are medical extenders, triaging patients for delivery of routine pregnancies at their health center or complicated pregnancies at the referral center. All high risk ultrasound diagnoses are confirmed at the referral center by a fully trained sonographer. In our planned studies in Western Kenya, referral facilities equipped to handle high-risk conditions identified by ultrasound are also well known.

The purpose of our videos is to help train midwives or other health care providers to perform ultrasound screening on pregnant women who present to health centers for routine antenatal care (ANC). The ultrasound screening will be used specifically to identify multiple gestation, malpresentation, and placenta previa, conditions that are present in 6% to 7% of pregnancies. It will also be used to identify causes of 1st trimester bleeding. No reliable data are available on mortality from these conditions, but in a survey of seven Ugandan opinion makers from academic settings, private practice, government practice and the Ministry of Health, the average expected mortality of women with multiple gestation, malpresentation, and placenta previa respectively who deliver in the home with or without trained birth attendants is 50%, 70%, and 98% respectively. This mortality is drastically reduced by delivery in a referral facility with ability to perform Cesarean section.  Knowing about a high-risk condition allows a woman time to plan for travel to the referral facility (often “too far to walk”) and time to save the money for the procedure fee.  An ultrasound diagnosis gives the woman a chance to change her plan from delivering at home to delivering with doctors that can manage a high-risk condition.

We also anticipate that availability of ultrasound at the health centers will have a "magnet effect," drawing women to antenatal care that might not otherwise present.  Studies in both developed and developing countries have shown that ultrasound during pregnancy has provided excitement at seeing the fetus, reassurance of the health of the fetus, a sense of maternal bonding, and satisfaction at knowing the due date. Viewing the fetus during ultrasound may encourage the parents to provide better care for the mother and baby, including more frequent antenatal visits and better care during labor and delivery.

The WHO recommends four antenatal care visits during a routine pregnancy and ministries of health in sub-Saharan Africa prioritize these four visits. Although they have been relatively ineffective in identifying potential birth complications, antenatal care visits do benefit the health of babies and mothers by providing interventions such as tetanus immunizations, iron/folate supplementation and other health promotion and disease prevention activities. Also, women who attend at least one antenatal care visit are far more likely to deliver in a health facility with skilled attendants than women who do not participate in antenatal care; in Uganda, women who attend four antenatal visits are four times more likely to deliver in such facilities.

The performance of ultrasound on routine antenatal visits will add identification of high-risk ultrasound diagnoses to the other advantages of antenatal care. When multiple gestation, malpresentation, or placenta previa are identified, the midwives will discuss with the family the implications of these conditions, timing of delivery, and the logistics and importance of planning for the delivery in a facility equipped for comprehensive emergency obstetric care.  If emergency conditions such as an ectopic pregnancy are identified, patients will be sent immediately to the referral facility.  For those patients without these specific ultrasound diagnoses, the midwives will be instructed to discuss the advantages that accrue to the mother and the baby by delivering in a health center equipped to deliver basic obstetric care rather than delivering at home. 

+ Read full update