Prenatal Portraits: Darling or Dangerous?
Many businesses offer ultrasound pictures and videos of unborn babies for entertainment purposes, but some experts say these fun pictures could be harmful.
The Souvenir Sonogram Frontier continued...
Some prenatal portrait centers claim they first obtain approval
from their clients' doctors before performing any ultrasounds. Others take the
keepsake images after a limited diagnostic scan or conduct the entertainment
screens after hours in doctors' offices.
The diverse makeup of each keepsake ultrasound business makes
it difficult for the FDA to take action. In the past, officials have sent
warning letters to rule breakers and seized equipment.
The federal government has limited power and staff to stem the
growth of keepsake ultrasound entities, however. The agency only has the
authority to regulate the sale and distribution of medical devices.
Jurisdiction over ultrasound services and behavior of technicians and doctors
belong to the individual states.
Nonetheless, because of the increasing number of entertainment
ultrasound businesses, the government is currently reviewing its enforcement
The Power of Imaging
In medicine, the advantages and disadvantages of procedures and
treatments are constantly evaluated. As Patricia D. Stahr, executive director
of the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine remarks, "Risk exists in
For her and for her organization, the risk of a keepsake
ultrasound outweighs its benefits. "I wouldn't undergo any procedure that
may cause a harmful effect unless I had to," says Stahr.
The Society endorses the AIUM's statement on ultrasounds, which
recommends use only when there is a medical need. Other groups that support
this position include the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), the
American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), and the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
According to the AIUM, diagnostic ultrasound has been around
since the late 1950s. Since its use, there has been no significant evidence
showing imaging harms patients or operators. One problem is that it would be
unethical to expose people to ultrasound energy for research purposes.
Officials at the FDA point to research suggesting prenatal
ultrasound exposure may cause delayed speech in children and left-handedness in
boys. In higher doses, ultrasound energy can raise temperature in metals and
treat bone fractures, sprains, and pulled muscles.
The power of ultrasound energy must be respected, say