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Now, a test to predict Caesarean need

Researchers in Sweden have developed a new test which could stop women labouring for hours in the hope of a ‘normal’ birth only to end up with a Caesarean section.

They have established that when high levels of lactic acid are measured in the amniotic fluid, it is unlikely the mother will deliver vaginally.

Measuring this acid could help decide whether to end a difficult labour and opt for a Caesarean earlier.

The test, developed by the Swedish company Obstecare, is being rolled out in a number of European hospitals. It has been developed on the back of research led by Liverpool University and Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

Their studies showed that the uterus produces lactic acid as other muscles do when they work hard, but that when it reaches a certain level the substance starts to inhibit contractions. The hormone oxytocin is usually administered in cases of slow labours to stimulate the uterus into contracting, but not all labouring women respond to it.

Johan Ubby, Obstecare, says the test should help doctors establish which women may go on to deliver vaginally, as low levels of lactic acid suggest the uterus could still produce the contractions needed to push out the baby.

Unmanned helicopter can cut troop losses in war

An unmanned helicopter that is expected to reduce US troop losses in war zones is being developed. The Kaman K-MAX helicopter has been adapted by defence company Lockheed Martin to fly without a pilot and can carry up to 6,000lbs of cargo — more than the aircraft’s empty weight.

Transporting equipment to troops at Forward Operating Bases on the frontline would be the K-MAX’s primary use.

It would help reduce the need for large vehicle convoys lowering the risk of soldiers being ambushed or injured by IEDs (improvised explosive devices). And it can be flown into under-fire areas without risk to aircrew.

A ground-based operator using a laptop is able to control the aircraft. They can input a flight plan detailing the destination and route.

It can also be flown hands-on from the cockpit if necessary and uses counter-rotating intermeshing rotor blades to generate its lifting power.

The adapted K-MAX can winch four different loads on its cargo hook and each can be programmed to release at different times. Its maximum airspeed with an external load is 80 knots (92mph).

It can also fly in weather conditions that would ground other helicopters and could also be used to lighten the workload of aircrew ensuring they get enough rest.

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