Ultrasounds are a regular part of prenatal medical care for most pregnant women, and also provide parents with their first glimpses of their developing baby. Although these photographs make for nice keepsakes, most women need very few scans, and medical guidelines firmly state that ultrasounds during pregnancy should be performed only when there is a valid medical indication.
- According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there have been no reports of documented negative effects on the fetus from diagnostic ultrasound procedures.
- But, the ACOG discourages the use of ultrasounds for nonmedical purposes because while there are no confirmed biological effects caused by scans, there’s always a possibility that some could be identified in the future.
“2D ultrasounds are the safest radiological modality offered to pregnant women, but as with everything, should be used in moderation,” says Monica Mendiola, MD, a practicing physician in Women’s Health at Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare-Chelsea and an instructor in Obstetrics & Gynecology at Harvard Medical School.
- Most healthy women receive two ultrasound scans during pregnancy.
- The first is, ideally, in the first trimester to confirm the due date, and the second is at 18-22 weeks to confirm normal anatomy and the sex of the baby,” explains Mendiola.
- As long as these ultrasounds are normal and mom’s abdomen measures consistent with her gestation, then that is all most women need.” Mendiola notes that if there are any problems with these initial ultrasounds, or if there is a discrepancy in the fetus size along the way, a repeat ultrasound is warranted.
“Additionally, if moms have medical issues such as diabetes or hypertension, then they will also receive additional scans,” she says. Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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Is it safe to do ultrasound frequently during pregnancy?
Project Description – By Caroline Shannon-Karasik, Romper Why is it that so much of the conversation surrounding pregnancy seems to include a lot of talk about too much/too little? Am I exercising too much? Am I not exercising enough? How much Brie can I really eat? Is my baby growing enough? Is my belly growing too much? It’s a lot of back and forth, to say the least.
- Of course blood tests, cervical checks, heartbeat monitoring, and ultrasounds alleviate some of that concern, but even those things can raise questions, like ” Are too many ultrasounds harmful ?” “I am frequently asked if ultrasound during pregnancy is safe,” Dr.
- Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper in an email interview.
“Pregnant women can take a sigh of relief knowing that there is no evidence showing that ultrasound is harmful to a growing baby at any stage of pregnancy.” Ross explains that ultrasound is simply high frequency sound waves that are used throughout pregnancy to evaluate the growth and health of a fetus, as well as looking at the ovaries, placenta, and amniotic fluid.
- There is no scary radiation being transmitted during ultrasound,” she says. Dr.
- Allison Hill, OB-GYN and author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way, agrees, adding that ultrasound, which has been used for medical purposes since the 1950s, does not contain radiation like that found in X-rays or CT scans.
- The safety of ultrasounds has been well established,” Hill tells Romper in an email interview.
“A review of over 50 medical studies shows that ultrasounds do not pose any danger to moms or fetuses. They do not cause birth defects, childhood developmental or intellectual problems, or cancer.” Hill says that skeptics point to animal models in which an increase in fetal temperature from the ultrasound waves has been related to birth defects.
“However, the temperature would need to increase by at least 1.5 degrees, which would require over four hours of continuous ultrasound exposure,” she says. “It is unlikely that the routine ultrasounds done during pregnancy —which last 15 minutes or less — could cause harm. These findings from animal models have never been seen in humans.” Ross says ultrasounds are performed in the first trimester to evaluate an early pregnancy and establish the dating of the pregnancy.
You can also count on an ultrasound between 16 and 20 weeks to assess the structural anatomy of the fetus as well as its sex (if you want to find out). “From a doctor’s viewpoint, ultrasound is a helpful set of eyes making sure your growing baby is healthy.” Hill says some high-risk pregnancies do require more ultrasounds.
That means moms-to-be with chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus, or growth restricted fetuses might require more frequent scanning, according to What To Expect. “For some mothers, having multiple ultrasounds instills fears about their pregnancy : the baby looks too big, the baby looks too small, the baby has the cord around its neck (actually a normal finding),” Hill says.
“Or maybe there was just ‘limited visualization,’ meaning some of the organs couldn’t be evaluated completely because of the size or position of the baby. In the mom’s mind, these results translate to ‘there may be a problem.'” That’s where fluid conversation between a soon-to-be mother and her healthcare provider is crucial, says Dr.
Vasiliki Moragianni, a board-certified OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist with Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Northern Virginia. “The most critical component of the patient-physician relationship is an open two-way communication,” she tells Romper in an email interview. “Whenever a patient is concerned about an issue, such as pregnancy ultrasound frequency, she should feel comfortable enough to discuss it with her physician.
Otherwise, a therapeutic relationship cannot be established and alternatives should be explored.” And if there’s one thing you know about pregnancy by now, it’s that options — and the resulting questions — are anything but scarce, right?
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Is too much ultrasound harmful to baby?
‘I wanted to trust my body’: Against doctors’ recommendations, some pregnant women refuse ultrasounds W hen Sarah Carter was pregnant with her first child, she started digging into the research on ultrasounds, scouring studies in mice and rats. She couldn’t find any evidence in humans they cause harm — professional groups agree that ultrasounds are helpful and safe to perform during pregnancy.
- But Carter didn’t see any studies that explicitly showed they were safe.
- Then, she heard something that compounded her concerns.
- After an ultrasound, a friend of a friend was told her fetus had a limb malformation.
- She spent her pregnancy riddled with anxiety, only to find out nothing was wrong after the baby’s birth.
Carter decided to refuse every ultrasound while pregnant. To her, the idea of spending her pregnancy anxious about ultrasound results seemed risky — riskier than the chance of missing something rare, but important, on a standard scan. When her birthing center told her an ultrasound was mandatory to deliver there, she found a new provider.
advertisement “I felt they were forcing my hand and not letting me make my own decision,” said the 38-year-old art therapist. “I wanted to trust my body.” Carter’s decision reflects a debate among some women about whether to forgo ultrasounds altogether, a question that has cropped up on social media for pregnant women and and parenting.
And while health care providers agree it’s a woman’s choice whether to have a scan, they worry about women skipping all of them. Ultrasounds are key to screening for serious developmental problems — including some that can be addressed in utero. Ultrasound results can dictate whether a woman needs to give birth at a certain kind of facility, so that specialists are on hand to care for the baby after birth.
- They can tell providers and women whether they’re carrying twins, or whether their placenta is too low or their baby is breech as labor begins.
- Advertisement Prenatal care providers who spoke with STAT reported varying numbers of patients who refused ultrasound.
- Some often encountered skepticism, while others more frequently cared for women who were on the opposite end of the spectrum: getting far more ultrasounds than they needed at new standalone clinics that offer 3D and 4D scans.
All of them suggested the deviations from recommended scans were a new cause for concern. “It’s pretty scary that there are some women out there who have no ultrasounds during pregnancy, because we really rely on it as a screening and diagnostic tool,” said Dr.
Leena Nathan, an obstetrician-gynecologist at UCLA Health. Ultrasounds use sound waves to capture images of a fetus inside the uterus. Many women have ultrasounds during the first trimester, which is helpful to estimate how far along a pregnancy is. Several providers told STAT they aren’t troubled by women who skip that “dating” scan.
But they strongly recommend all women have what’s known as the anatomy scan, or an ultrasound around 20 weeks gestation to look at fetal development and check for any problems. Some women — including those with high-risk pregnancies or women carrying twins — have more scans.
- Ultrasounds have been used to monitor pregnancy for decades, and there’s no meaningful evidence that they can cause harm to a developing fetus.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists “no links have been found between ultrasound and birth defects, childhood cancer, or developmental problems later in life.” But experts can’t rule out the possibility that future research could point to possible effects, which is why they recommend that pregnant women only get ultrasounds that are necessary and are performed by trained providers as part of their prenatal care.
“We know that it’s safe to the degree that nearly every person gets one or two scans in their pregnancy, and we haven’t seen any untoward effects,” said Nathan. But some women still want to avoid them, like Erin Rice Petrillo, a 36-year-old from Pennsylvania.
Pregnant with her first child in 2015, Petrillo took a birthing class where her teacher shared a traumatic birth experience in the hospital. That story pushed Petrillo to seek out other women’s stories. She started reading the research on prenatal care and poring over articles on her choices as a pregnant woman.
She set out to find a provider who would be on the same page as her when it came to her prenatal care. She ended up selecting a midwife who practiced at a hospital, hoping she might support Petrillo in declining some kinds of standard care, like ultrasounds.
Petrillo knows that experts recommend the scans during pregnancy when it’s medically necessary. But she didn’t feel that the scans were necessary for what she saw as a “routine pregnancy” without any problems. Petrillo firmly believes that pregnancy isn’t a medical condition, but a natural state for a woman’s body.
Unnecessary medical procedures, she said, can lead to a “cascade of treatments, tests, or procedures” that also aren’t necessary. “My philosophy is that your body is gonna do what it’s gonna do. Hearing the heartbeat super early or seeing whatever development early on, it’s not going to change the outcome,” she said.
It wasn’t a clear-cut choice. Petrillo hesitated, in particular, about skipping the 20-week scan, knowing it could catch some problems that, if discovered before birth, would warrant intervention in utero or right after a baby’s birth. “I questioned myself making that decision the most,” she said. Ultimately, Petrillo didn’t have ultrasounds while pregnant with either of her children, born in 2016 and 2019.
She said she would have reconsidered that decision if there were any signs of serious complications. Prenatal care providers often field questions from pregnant women about the potential risks of ultrasounds. They walk women through the evidence, emphasize the benefits of ultrasound, and lay out the risks of skipping a scan.
They make it clear that forgoing the scans can leave women and providers in the dark about certain problems, like a heart malformation or underdeveloped kidneys. “When we find things with ultrasound, we can counsel the parents about what to expect, make all kinds of plans for newborn care, and make sure the baby is born in a place that can take care of those problems right away,” said Dr.
Celeste Sheppard, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s a delicate balance for providers. They want to hear out a woman’s questions and concerns. They don’t want to downplay a woman’s worries or strong-arm her into having a scan she doesn’t want to have.
But they do want to make sure women are armed with accurate information. “These are long conversations that you have to take the time to have, to make sure the family understands the provider’s concerns and the benefits,” said Shadman Habibi, a nurse-midwife at UCLA Health. If a woman decides to abstain from ultrasounds, Sheppard said, “that’s her prerogative.” She would continue to care for that patient and avoid “an arm wrestle” about the question of ultrasounds.
But Sheppard said she understands why some providers might dismiss a patient from their practice if she refuses any scans. “It’s also the prerogative of the physician to say ‘Well, OK, I can’t see you anymore I’m happy to help you find someone else,'” said Sheppard, who is also the clinical director of ultrasound at UT’s women’s health department.
- Several providers said they see women having too many ultrasounds more often than they see women skipping the scans altogether.
- Usually, people want more ultrasounds and we’re trying to talk them out of ultrasounds,” said Dr.
- Chemen Neal, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Indiana University Health.
- The fast-growing business of 3D and 4D ultrasound centers has fueled that trend.
Some clinics offer package deals, bundling multiple scans at different stages of pregnancy. Others tout a discount or keepsakes if women come back for more ultrasounds. “It’s become a cultural norm,'” said Carter, one of the women who opted to have no ultrasounds.
- And all those extra ultrasounds have providers worried.
- While there is no evidence that ultrasounds pose a risk to developing fetus, it isn’t clear whether there are any risks with excessive ultrasounds.
- ACOG cautions against the “casual use of ultrasound.” “All of our professional societies — and I as well — have some concern about unregulated use of medical ultrasounds,” Sheppard said.
Among those concerns: the scans aren’t necessary and the people providing them might not be trained to stick to medical guidelines, like operating the ultrasound machine at too high a power setting or using it for longer than recommended. Providers are also concerned about the possibility of an ultrasound technician at a freestanding clinic missing a problem with a pregnancy, giving a woman a false sense of security.
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Can ultrasounds cause miscarriage?
Can ultrasound scans harm the baby? – There is no evidence that having a vaginal or an abdominal scan will cause a miscarriage or harm your baby. If you bleed after a vaginal scan, it will most likely be because there was already blood pooled higher in the vagina and the probe dislodged it.
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Is there any side effects of ultrasound during pregnancy?
What is an ultrasound? Ultrasound (also called sonogram) is a prenatal test offered to most pregnant women. It uses sound waves to show a picture of your baby in the uterus (womb). Ultrasound helps your health care provider check on your baby’s health and development.
- Ultrasound can be a special part of pregnancy—it’s the first time you get to “see” your baby! Depending on when it’s done and your baby’s position, you may be able to see his hands, legs and other body parts.
- You may be able to tell if your baby’s a boy or a girl, so be sure to tell your provider if you don’t want to know! Most women get an ultrasound in their second trimester at 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Some also get a first-trimester ultrasound (also called an early ultrasound) before 14 weeks of pregnancy. The number of ultrasounds and timing may be different for women with certain health conditions like as asthma and obesity. Talk to your provider about when an ultrasound is right for you.
To confirm (make sure) you’re pregnant To check your baby’s age and growth, This helps your provider figure out your due date. To check your baby’s heartbeat, muscle tone, movement and overall development To check to see if you’re pregnant with twins, triplets or more (also called multiples) To check if your baby is in the heads-first position before birth To examine your ovaries and uterus (womb). Ovaries are where eggs are stored in your body.
Your provider also uses ultrasound for screening and other testing. Screening means seeing if your baby is more likely than others to have a health condition; it doesn’t mean finding out for sure if your baby has the condition. Your provider may use ultrasound:
To screen for birth defects, like spina bifida or heart defects. After an ultrasound, your provider may want to do more tests, called diagnostic tests, to see for sure if your baby has a birth defect. Birth defects are health conditions that a baby has at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, in how the body develops, or in how the body works. To help with other prenatal tests, like chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS) or amniocentesis (also called amnio). CVS is when cells from the placenta are taken for testing. The placenta is tissue that provides nutrients for your baby. Amnio is a test where amniotic fluid and cells are taken from the sac around your baby. To check for pregnancy complications, including ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy and miscarriage,
Are there different kinds of ultrasound? Yes. The kind you get depends on what your provider is checking for and how far along you are in pregnancy. All ultrasounds use a tool called a transducer that uses sound waves to create pictures of your baby on a computer. The most common kinds of ultrasound are:
Transabdominal ultrasound. When you hear about ultrasound during pregnancy, it’s most likely this kind. You lay on your back on an exam table, and your provider covers your belly with a thin layer of gel. The gel helps the sound waves move more easily so you get a better picture. Then he moves the transducer across your belly. You may need to drink several glasses of water about 2 hours before the exam to have a full bladder during the test. A full bladder helps sound waves move more easily to get a better picture. Ultrasound is painless, but having a full bladder may be uncomfortable. The ultrasound takes about 20 minutes. Transvaginal ultrasound. This kind of ultrasound is done through the vagina (birth canal). You lay on your back on an exam table with your feet in stirrups. Your provider moves a thin transducer shaped like a wand into your vagina. You may feel some pressure from the transducer, but it shouldn’t cause pain. Your bladder needs to be empty or just partly full. This kind of ultrasound also takes about 20 minutes.
In special cases, your provider may use these kinds of ultrasound to get more information about your baby:
Doppler ultrasound. This kind of ultrasound is used to check your baby’s blood flow if he’s not growing normally. Your provider uses a transducer to listen to your baby’s heartbeat and to measure the blood flow in the umbilical cord and in some of your baby’s blood vessels. You also may get a Doppler ultrasound if you have Rh disease. This is a blood condition that can cause serious problems for your baby if it’s not treated. Doppler ultrasound usually is used in the last trimester, but it may be done earlier. 3-D ultrasound. A 3-D ultrasound takes thousands of pictures at once. It makes a 3-D image that’s almost as clear as a photograph. Some providers use this kind of ultrasound to make sure your baby’s organs are growing and developing normally. It can also check for abnormalities in a baby’s face. You also may get a 3-D ultrasound to check for problems in the uterus. 4-D ultrasound. This is like a 3-D ultrasound, but it also shows your baby’s movements in a video.
Does ultrasound have any risks? Ultrasound is safe for you and your baby when done by your health care provider. Because ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation, it’s safer than X-rays. Providers have used ultrasound for more than 30 years, and they have not found any dangerous risks.
- If your pregnancy is healthy, ultrasound is good at ruling out problems, but it can’t find every problem.
- It may miss some birth defects.
- Sometimes, a routine ultrasound may suggest that there is a birth defect when there really isn’t one.
- While follow-up tests often show that the baby is healthy, false alarms can cause worry for parents.
You may know of some places, like stores in a mall, that aren’t run by doctors or other medical professionals that offer “keepsake” 3-D or 4-D ultrasound pictures or videos for parents. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) do not recommend these non-medical ultrasounds.
- The people doing them may not have medical training and may give you wrong or even harmful information.
- What happens after an ultrasound? For most women, ultrasound shows that the baby is growing normally.
- If your ultrasound is normal, just be sure to keep going to your prenatal checkups,
- Sometimes, ultrasound may show that you and your baby need special care.
For example, if the ultrasound shows your baby has spina bifida, he may be treated in the womb before birth. If the ultrasound shows that your baby is breech (feet-down instead of head-down), your provider may try to flip your baby’s position to head-down, or you may need to have a cesarean section (also called c-section).
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Can ultrasound cause damage to fetus?
Abstract – Ultrasound is, arguably, the most commonly used diagnostic procedure in obstetrics. It is convenient, painless, yields immediate, extensive results, and is widely considered to be safe. Some (but not all) benefits described in the literature have been validated by evidence-based analysis, such as pregnancy dating.
- Others are considered clinically useful, although objective evidence may be less strong.
- As is the case with almost any medical procedure, however, its performance carries some risks: misdiagnosis on the one hand and possible undesired effects on the other.
- The general belief exists that diagnostic ultrasound (DUS) does not pose any risk to the pregnant patient nor to her fetus.
Nonetheless, ultrasound is a form of energy and, as such, demonstrates effects in biological tissues it traverses (bioeffects). The physical mechanisms responsible for these effects are thermal or non-thermal (mechanical). It is the role of science to show whether any of these bioeffects may be harmful.
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