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The UK NSC recommendation on Vasa praevia screening in pregnancy

Recommendation Systematic population screening programme not recommended
Last review completed December 2013
Next review due in 2016/17
Key downloads

Find general information about population health screening.

Why is screening not recommended by UK NSC?

Very little research has been undertaken on vasa praevia.  As such, a review found that:

  • There is not enough information about the number of babies affected by it in the UK.
  • Vasa praevia can be found by ultrasound testing but there is insufficient knowledge about the accuracy of the test so women may be worried and be advised to have an unnecessary, early caesarean section and others may be reassured but have a problem during delivery anyway.
  • A caesarean section to deliver the baby early would usually be recommended to prevent the effects of vasa praevia.  However, this can bring its own complications. In many women this is likely to be unnecessary as the baby would have been born without problems.
  • The review team recommended that work be done with the RCOG and interested groups to see if there is enough evidence to guide clinicians and women when they have a pregnancy that fits into one of the high risk groups.

More about Vasa praevia

The umbilical cord inserts into the surface membranes of the placenta rather than directly into the placenta (velamentous cord insertion).

Vasa Praevia is a rare but important health problem that occurs when the blood vessels from the placenta or umbilical cord block the birth canal and tear during delivery.

The condition is associated with a number of risk factors:

  • The umbilical cord inserts into the surface membranes of the placenta rather than directly into the placenta (velamentous cord insertion)
  • An unusual shaped placenta eg in two pieces with blood vessels running between (bilobed and succenturiate placenta)
  • Low-lying placenta or placenta praevia pregnancies resulting from in-vitro fertilisation
  • Multiple pregnancies

» Also see the UK NSC policy on placenta praevia


The Harry Cunningham Trust
National Childbirth Trust
Royal College of Midwives
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Society and College of Radiographers
Vasa Praevia Raising Awareness

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

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