Are ultrasounds safe?

The easy answer.  We DON’T KNOW!

That scares me.  It scares me more that moms don’t know that we don’t know if it is safe or not.

I think one ultrasound at 20 weeks is just the right amount.  Anything more than that should have a good medical reason to do it.

We just don’t know if it is safe or not.  So why expose your baby to something risky unless there is a good reason.

If your care provider is suggesting multiple ultrasounds, ASK why!

Here are 2 good articles to get more information from.

Dr. Wagner – Are ultrasounds more harm than good?

Dr. Sarah J. Buckley – Ultrasound Scans – cause for concern.

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6 thoughts on “Are ultrasounds safe?”

  1. In two pregnancies, I have had one ultrasound (plus Doppler). Ultrasound really scares me in that its safety simply is not confirmed, and there is evidence out there that it can be harmful!

    (Additionally, I often object to the philosophy behind many ultrasounds, but that’s a different subject.)

    What really bugs me about modern prenatal care is that the number of prenatal ultrasounds given per pregnancy is just skyrocketing. It’s not just one scan at 20 weeks – it’s a scan at 4, 8, 12, 18, 22, etc. etc. etc. – for no good reason! It’s taking over good prenatal care, and for no reason other than laziness on the part of the care-provider and over-reliance on technology.

    If I ever have another pregnancy, I will not be having an ultrasound. Might even skip the doppler.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. I agree. In my classes, it’s becoming more of the norm for parents to have the 3-D ultrasounds for fun. They’re subjecting their babies to 45 minutes of ultrasound for no good reason, other than to “see” their babies and get a video of it!
    Most moms (and dads) just adore ultrasounds ….and until the caregivers start realizing exactly what’s going on there, I’m not sure we’ll see a decrease in them.

  3. I talked to one newly pregnant young mother and she was agast that you don’t ‘have to’ have an ultrasound at all. She was genuinely susprised that I had none with either of my pregnancies, didn’t know the gender untill they were born and suprise suprise…THEY WERE BOTH HEALTHY!!!!

    None—is not totally true. I had one during labor with my first (before the c-section) and one at 9 weeks with my second, Appt made before I was pregnant to see if I was having other problems in the area (I wasn’t). But still…….

  4. Yes, doppler is u/sound and is actually more non-ionizing radiation than imaging u/sound.

    We do know that u/sound causes harm. It alters the brain and produces higher rates of left handedness.

    Ultrasound scans linked to brain damage in babies
    By Robert Matthews, Science Correspondent
    Last Updated: 12:15am GMT 09/12/2001

    EVIDENCE suggesting that ultrasound scans on pregnant women cause brain damage in their unborn babies has been uncovered by scientists.

    In the most comprehensive study yet on the effect of the scanning, doctors have found that men born to mothers who underwent scanning were more likely to show signs of subtle brain damage.

    The implications of the study are to be raised at an international meeting of scientists being held this week in Edinburgh. There have been calls for urgent further research.

    advertisementDuring the 1990s, a number of studies hinted that ultrasound scanning affected unborn babies. Research has suggested that subtle brain damage can cause people who ought genetically to be right-handed to become left-handed. In addition, these people face a higher risk of conditions ranging from learning difficulties to epilepsy.

    Now a team of Swedish scientists has confirmed the earlier reports on the effects of ultrasound with the most compelling evidence yet that unborn babies are affected by the scanning. They compared almost 7,000 men whose mothers underwent scanning in the 1970s with 170,000 men whose mothers did not, looking for differences in the rates of left- and right-handedness.

    The team found that men whose mothers had scans were significantly more likely to be left-handed than normal, pointing to a higher rate of brain damage while in the womb. Crucially, the biggest difference was found among those born after 1975, when doctors introduced a second scan later in pregnancy. Such men were 32 per cent more likely to be left-handed than those in the control group.

    Reporting their findings in the journal Epidemiology, the researchers warned that scans in late pregnancy were now routine in many countries. “The present results suggest a 30 per cent increase in risk of left-handedness among boys pre-natally exposed to ultrasound,” they say. “If this association reflects brain injury, this means as many as one in 50 male foetuses pre-natally exposed to ultrasound are affected.”

    Prof Juni Palmgren, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, a member of the team, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I would urge people not to refuse to have ultrasound scanning, as the risk of brain damage is only a possibility – but this is an interesting finding and needs to be taken seriously.”

    Other doctors and scientists caution that until further studies are carried out, scanning should still be regarded as safe by mothers-to-be. If confirmed, however, the findings would mean that ultrasound scans are causing slight brain damage in thousands of babies in Britain each year.

    Ultrasound scans, which were introduced in the 1960s, have long been regarded as a safe means of checking on the health of unborn children. The scanners use high-frequency sound waves to give X-ray-like images of the inside of the womb, but without using radiation, which carries a risk of causing cancer. Between the 1960s and today, the number of pregnant women having scans in western Europe has increased from a handful to virtually all of them.

    Normally, left-handedness is genetic: the likelihood of two left-handed parents having a left-handed child is 35 per cent, while for two right-handed parents, it is only nine per cent. It is when the incidence of left-handedness begins to rise above these normal rates that scientists become concerned that brain damage of some kind could be a factor.

    Other surveys have shown that premature babies are five times more likely than normal to be left-handed. According to the Swedish researchers, the human brain undergoes critical development until relatively late in pregnancy, making it vulnerable to damage. In addition, the male brain is especially at risk, as it continues to develop later than the female brain.

    The growing evidence that ultrasound affects unborn babies may cast new light on the puzzling rise in left-handedness over recent years.

    In Britain, the rate has more than doubled, from five per cent in the 1920s to 11 per cent today. Researchers have estimated that only 20 per cent of this rise can be put down to the suppression of left-handedness among the older generation.

    Dr Francis Duck of the British Medical Ultrasound Society will chair a discussion of the results at the international meeting of ultrasound experts being held this week in Edinburgh. “When the first study suggesting a link came out, it was possible to ignore it, but now this is the third,” he said. “What it demonstrates is the need to investigate the link further, and to look at possible mechanisms.”

    Dr Duck cautioned, however, that ultrasound scanning has saved the lives of countless babies: “This research must be seen in context, and it should not deter anyone from having an antenatal scan.”

    Beverley Beech, the chairman of the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services, criticised doctors for insisting for years that ultrasound was totally safe.

    “I am not sure at all that the benefits of ultrasound scans outweigh the downsides,” said Ms Beech. “We should be advising women to think very, very carefully before they have scans at all.”

  5. Bri, Yes. As is EFM. Doppler is actually stronger than getting an ultrasound. Approx 5 min doppler/EFM = approx 30 min viewing ultrasound

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