Choose 2D, 3D or 4D. In-studio or at your baby shower. Announce your pregnancy
with a “viewing party”. Get a video at the mall. Post it on Facebook. Select the
premium package offered by a Miami OB-GYN’s office and get a weekend discount.
The American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine, American College of Obstetrician
s and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, March of Dimes,
US Food and Drug Administration, England’s National Institute for Health and
Clinical Excellence, the UK’s National Collaborating Centre for Women's and
Children's Health, and other national and international experts all have published
strong recommendations against non-medical use of fetal ultrasound. The Society
of Obstetricians and Gynaecolgists of Canada calls for a complete ban on non-
medical use of fetal ultrasound. The state of Connecticut legislated a ban in 2009.
The FDA says that creating fetal keepsake ultrasound images is “an unapproved
use of a medical device,” and those who perform ultrasonography scans “without
a physician’s order may be in violation of state or local laws or regulations.”
“You don’t need an excuse to be happy.”
Still internet ads for non-medical ultrasounds abound, complete with slogans like
this, implying you don’t need a medical reason for the “painless, relaxing procedure”.
The growing popularity of “keepsake ultrasounds” is not due to cost or access issues.
Most insurance companies pay for one or two doctor-ordered ultrasounds as part of
routine prenatal care, and commercial ultrasound is not cheap.
Prices start at $175 for the 3D in-studio option. $500 for an “ultrasound party”
at the location of your choice. The cheapest rate I saw was $75 for a basic “gender
determination” scan; it’s discounted to $55 on Saturdays one OB-GYN’s office. These
commercial services are not regulated or standardized.
Commercial sonographers say that ultrasound is safe. I found unclear statements like:
“All research provided has been proven to be safe for expectant mothers and baby,
as long as the procedure is done by a trained professional, and no longer that one
hour intervals.” First, we have to ask, research provided by whom? and What about
the research that was not provided? Second, remember that no research ever proves
anything. It can only offer statistical evidence. Then, a more accurate statement is
that repeated ultrasounds have not been proven harmful. Still the evidence has
convinced all the advisory and regulatory agencies that entertainment ultrasounds
Ultrasound uses sound waves, not xrays. So radiation is not the issue. But the procedure
targets the fetus with heat and pressure, especially prolonged, 4-D studies. New York
state legislators proposed a ban on ultrasonography for entertainment purposes, citing
data showing that 4Dl ultrasound equipment can emit eight times more energy than the
machines commonly used in medical settings. The risk of effects on fetal development
has been demonstrated in both human and animal models, and remains, at least theoretically,
so that the FDA concludes exposing the fetus to ultrasound with no anticipation of medical
benefit is not justified.
Additional concerns about non-medical ultrasonography include the possibility that non-
medical ultrasonography will fail to identify a problem with the baby, falsely reassuring
the patient and her family; or that a false-positive result could create unnecessary anxiety
and follow-up testing. Machines are unregulated so may not be properly calibrated or
maintained. Technicians may not be well-trained or proficient. “gender determination”
had never been an accepted use of of ultrasound technology and raises thorny ethical issues.
Medical ultrasounds are for doctors
Here’s the problem: In medical settings, the sonographer is commonly prohibited from
explaining ultrasound results to the patient, who must then wait for days or weeks to get the
results from the physician who ordered the scan. Family members may be barred from attending
the ultrasound appointment to avoid congestion in the radiology department. Parents may not
receive still pictures or video to take home. If they do, they still cannot send it to a friend or post
it online. Until these disempowering practices change, parents and sonographers will continue
to seek a more informative, convenient, family friendly experience.
Check Technician’s Credentials
Qualified sonographers are trained and certified. Find one, or check a technician’s credentials,
at the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
Beginnings Pregnancy Guides says, “Ultrasound is safe for you and Baby.” [p8] That remains true.
The 2014 edition will add this statement: Many healthy pregnancies do not need ultrasound.
Extra “keepsake" ultrasounds may be harmful. The Registry of credentialed sonographers
will be posted on the new Mothers’ Resources page at www.BeginningsGuides.com More on that later.
Don't Order Fetal Ultrasound Videos As Souvenirs: FDA