Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Babies in 3D

I came across this article today, about the rise in numbers of parents scheduling 3D and 4D ultrasounds of their babies. This particular article is about "fetus parties" (which sounds really weird), but touches on the issue of ultrasound in general.

Studies conducted in the recent past have concluded that ultrasound in prenatal care has no significant impacts on neurological development. However, more recent studies (such as quoted here), have found brain damage in ultrasound experiments with mice - the kind of damage consistent in the brains of children with autism.

Now, we know that everyone is trying to pin the blame for autism somewhere. I've written about possible links to pitocin, and you know the rumours (yes, just rumours - nothing has been proven) over links with vaccinations.

Both of those things concern me, too. I didn't have to worry about pitocin, as I was not induced and my labour wasn't augmented. I did vaccinate my child, but with some reservations. I was not so much worried about the link to autism (as I had read about the retraction of the Lancet article), but I was worried more about the preservatives used in the vaccines. Injecting my child with formaldehyde doesn't seem very appealing, but I weighed the risks and benefits, and made an informed choice.

But when it comes to ultrasound, no one talks about risks. Ultrasounds are made out to be "perfectly safe," and women are sent for ultrasounds any time a small concern arises. Furthermore, as the article discusses above, new 3D and 4D ultrasounds are bringing in the big bucks by offering expectant parents a chance to view their child in a way that makes them look "real" (as opposed to the alien-like pictures you are given at your regular ultrasound appointments). Most parents I know (including myself!) have no idea that there are suspected risks involved with ultrasound technology.

Here's my ultrasound experience:
When I first got pregnant, I was sent for a "dating" ultrasound, as my menstrual cycles had not been very regular (because, of course, we have to know our exact due dates...insert sarcasm). This occurred at 10 weeks. I later consented to the regular 20 week ultrasound, which also included the prenatal screening for things like Down's Syndrome. However, my baby was not very cooperative in my belly, and they couldn't get proper measurements. So, back again the following week!

Several weeks later I experienced some light spotting, and was sent for another one to confirm everything was OK (it was). This was followed by another ultrasound to check growth, as my belly was not growing the average 1cm per week. In dealing with an inept technician at the Kemptville Hospital, I then had to go back for a repeat ultrasound to check again.

So let's count them: that's SIX ultrasounds! And that was for a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. I wonder how many ultrasounds women get who are considered high-risk?

I'm not trying to scare you here into refusing all ultrasounds. Clearly, much more research needs to be done to find out if there are any risks to your baby. But what I am trying to do here is to highlight that ultrasound technology does do something, and there is evidence that this "something" affects the brain. So if you are consenting to many unnecessary ultrasounds and participating in these costly 3D and 4D sessions, you may want to do a bit more reading.

Technology often comes with a cost. Maybe it's time for us to become more aware of those costs, and the impact they're having on our babies and our children.


  1. So I read this post today as I was sitting in the waiting room for my ultrasound! Ha! With my first pregnancy I also wondered about the necessity of them and if they were healthy. I had 4 then. I didn't really start to read more about them until this pregnancy. "Ultra - sound" spelled out just doesn't sound healthy for baby, does it? I had to go back today because baby didn't cooperate at the last one and they couldn't get some measurements. Luckily it was only about 10 minutes today. So far that means I have had 3, but I was hoping to have 3 max. I really wonder about the 3D ones though...never something that appealed to me.

    1. That's hilarious that you're waiting for your ultrasound!! You're right..."ultra-sound" kind of tips you off to something there :) As I said, I hope I'm not trying to scare people, but just to make us more aware of elective ultrasounds and excessive ultrasounds (e.g. my last pregnancy!! I totally didn't need that many, and seriously didn't need a crappy technician working on me)

  2. more links with information

    Personally the concern is more with the 3D/4D as they use different frequency and pitch to create the image.
    Last time I checked (all be it not recently) these 3D clinics were not prohibited in certain places in the US.

    1. Yes, I've heard about the difference in frequency and pitch for the 3D. I think that those are the ones that people are most concerned about, although it still worries me when women are receiving a ton of regular ultrasounds

  3. When I was pregnant I joined some pregnancy groups online, and there were some women with American doctors with ultrasound equipment in their offices who would have an ultrasound every... single... appointment. "Just to see what's going on in there," the doctors would tell them. Not because there was any medical problem. Which of course made all the OTHER mothers who weren't getting ultrasounds every few weeks jealous that they weren't getting "good medical care" like the first women were, and upset that they were being denied the right to see their baby on a screen each appointment. The mothers who were being left alone instead of being tested, poked, prodded and scanned every appointment were furious and feeling neglected and worried about all the possible problems their baby could have that they don't know about because their doctors weren't giving them an ultrasound every appointment! It was ridiculous. Moms were posting rants about how this "wasn't a third world country" and how they should ALL be getting ultrasounds monthly, and having anxiety over all the possible problems that were going undetected...
    And of course, the moms who WERE getting regular (unnecessary) ultrasounds were cropping up with "complications" left right and centre, which they would proceed to panic about for several weeks until the complications either corrected themselves naturally or mysteriously never showed up again in subsequent scans. But of course nobody said "Jeez all these ultrasounds are causing me nothing but anxiety," instead it was "Thank god the problem turned out to be nothing! Good thing I was having regular ultrasounds."

    1. You're so right - ultrasound seems to find problems, and many research studies have shown that they don't actually improve outcomes!


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