The foremost health authority in the U.S. has one message for parents who are seeking out extra ultrasounds in order to get videos or pictures of their baby in the womb: stop it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released information yesterday with regards to parents getting ultrasounds outside of their scheduled medical appointments, a practice that has been growing in recent years both in Canada and the U.S. According to CTV, private clinics have opened up that allow parents to obtain ultrasound images, 3D images, or "4D imaging," which are essentially 3D videos of the fetus.
"Although there is a lack of evidence of any harm due to ultrasound imaging and heartbeat monitors, prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important," says Shahram Vaezy, Ph.D., an FDA biomedical engineer. "Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles (cavitation) in some tissues."
Women in Canada typically have at least one ultrasound over the course of their pregnancy, usually around 18 to 20 weeks for what's known as an "anatomy ultrasound" to check that the baby is developing normally, explains BabyCentre.ca. Some women have what's known as a "dating ultrasound" around 10 to 13 weeks of pregnancy if the date of conception is unknown, and depending on the health of the fetus, women can have more ultrasounds from 28 to 40 weeks of pregnancy to make sure the baby is healthy.
Earlier this year, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Canadian Association of Radiologists released a joint statement with a similar sentiment to the FDA, but added some concerns about how these clinics are run, and the potential health problems that can result:
"With the non-medical use of fetal ultrasound, the maintenance of technical safeguards, operator training, qualifications, expertise, standards for infection control, and governing competency are no longer ensured. As a result, fetal energy exposure may not be appropriately monitored, and operators of the equipment may not be adequately trained to recognize fetal and placental abnormalities that may adversely affect fetal and maternal outcomes."
The organizations also noted that while there have not been health risks linked to fetal ultrasounds, they do expose the fetus to external energy, which could have unknown consequence down the road.
Both health organizations stress the positive aspects of fetal ultrasounds, such as assessing the fetus' growth and development, looking out for potential anomalies and even allowing for bonding between parent and child, but emphasize the necessity for a doctor or midwife's prescription and proper training.
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