Are you being lied too? How would you feel if you found out that you were putting your unborn child at unnecessary risk for such neurodevelopmental problems as dyslexia, schizophrenia, epilepsy, retardation and autism? Would you be furious if you found out that it was your own health care provider that was endorsing your exposure to these unnecessary risks? Well, this just might be the case.
The American College of Obstetriciansand Gynecologists, The American Academy of Family Physicians and The American Medical Association have all cautioned against routine ultrasounds on pregnant women. Yet, it seems that the number of frivolous ultrasound exams has been increasing. Most pregnant women take every possible precaution to ensure that they birth a healthy child. They avoid alcohol, cigarette smoke, soft cheeses and various herbs. They drink approximately a gallon of water a day, exercise, avoid stress and take prenatal vitamins. They take the advice of their doctors and health care professionals to heart. They call hospitals and check themselves into emergency rooms at the slightest twinges. Some women go so far as to record everything that they eat daily, create meal plans long in advance, and quit jobs to avoid stressful situations. Many women will read, play music and talk to their unborn child in order to help give them the best start possible. And, for all of this work and worry many woman still are not aware of a potentially very dangerous hazard being administered by the very person that they are trusting to guide them through this time . . . ultrasounds. Why are people not being informed about the dangers of ultrasound use? Maybe all these people bemoaning why take a risk with just one drink should consider the risk of just one ultrasound.
Women are often warned of the dangers of elevating the temperature in the womb over a certain amount. The fetus has no way of regulating its own body temperature and, therefore. allowing the amniotic fluid to reach certain high temperatures for extended periods of time can result in neurological and cellular damage. Many doctors still warn against taking hot baths for too long and pregnant woman are expected to seek medical attention if they get high temperature fevers. And yet, one of the main dangers of ultrasound is this very thing so many pregnant women are warned about. Ultrasounds increase the temperature of the amniotic fluid. When experimenting with ultrasounds on pregnant rats and other mammals the elevated temperature, caused by the ultrasound, often results in fetal brain damage of the unborn off-spring. And the longer the ultrasound session lasts the hotter the amniotic fluid gets.
Another possible danger of the ultrasound are the high frequency sound waves. Ultrasounds are loud inside the womb. A study conducted in 2001 recorded the sound of an ultrasound to the baby in the womb as being equivalent to a subway train. That is a lot of noise for newly developing cells and tiny developing ears. Maybe this is why every time that I’ve gone for an ultrasound the fetus inevitable tries to move away from the transducer.
What constitutes a routine and unnecessary ultrasound? Well, let’s start with the big one: getting an ultrasound in order to confirm the sex of your child is an unnecessary, yet increasingly routine ultrasound procedure. Is it really that important that you know whether to purchase blue or pink for the nursery or to start calling the baby Ann or Bill? The ultrasound exams to test for the babies sex expose the baby to unnecessary risk. Furthermore, this particular exam can be even more dangerous because it often leads to even longer sessions. I know a woman who returned 4 or 5 times for extra ultrasounds because the baby wasn’t co-operating with her heedless desire to know the sex of her unborn child.
Many of the ultrasound exams pregnant women are given now can be avoided through the use of other medical techniques. For example: to discover the size and growth of your fetus a fundal height measurement can be done. Having an ultrasound is not more accurate; in fact, in the majority of cases, the ultrasound measurements are off by a couple of inches and a pound or two. Of course to have your fundal height measured you will have to find a doctor that still knows how to do hands on medical work. More and more doctors are only being trained in how to use ever more complex machinery and probably have no idea how to measure your fundal height-a useful skill to know in order to avoid exposing your baby, as much as possible, to the dangers of the high temperatures and extreme sound vibrations of an ultrasound. Measuring the fundal height is so easy that you can do it for yourself and most midwives use this technique.
Another unessential use of prenatal ultrasound is when it is used to determine the gestational age. This is just as easily determined by the date of a woman’s last menstrual period, and it is not necessary to confirm the age with an ultrasound. Most babies are born within one to two weeks of their due dates, therefore, knowing an exact date really serves no benefit to you at all. That is why it is called an Estimated Due Date-less than 5% of babies are born on their medically given due date.
There are many frivolous and unnecessary ultrasound appointments that can be avoided, but perhaps the most shocking and most irresponsible misuse of the possible dangerous prenatal ultrasound technology is when women go to commercial companies. When I first heard about this I had to do a double take. It seems that all over the United States commercial businesses are opening up that perform long ultrasounds on pregnant women providing them with 3D and 4D pictures and half hour long videos of their unborn child in the womb. I do not look down on woman who do this without knowing better. Being a mother myself I can see how it would be very tempting. What a fantastic memoir to have for posterity. However, despite the obvious allure of it, this is the most risky use of ultrasound technology. These commercial businesses are typical staffed by inexpert handlers of the machinery, not medical staff at all. If ultrasounds can be dangerous in medical settings they are really dangerous in a commercial setting where the staff could spend lots of time getting the photos and videos recorded that the parents desire; thereby, exposing the infant to more and more and longer and longer periods of ultrasound vibrations and dangerously increasing the temperature of the amniotic fluid. These ultrasound sessions last approximately 30 minutes to an hour and involve photography and video images of the baby. I want to hold on to these beautiful moments during my pregnancy as well, but not at the risk of future complications and suffering for my children.
When it comes down to it prenatal ultrasounds are, in most cases, an unnecessary risk for your unborn child. Ultrasounds in most medical cases can be avoided. I know that for many women, myself included, the desire to see that your baby is there and doing well is overwhelmingly strong; however, it is generally unnecessary. Parents have a responsibility to inform themselves in order to do what is best for your children. The information is out their for the taking so hop to it.