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 Power of Imaging continued...
"One must be cautious [with ultrasound], not just use it
because you want to use it," says Lawrence Platt, MD, director of the
Center for Fetal Medicine and Woman's Ultrasound in Los Angeles and past
president of the AIUM. "It doesn't mean that we believe that every time you
use an ultrasound, you're harming a fetus. But it also doesn't mean we can
guarantee that it is safe. No one can guarantee it is safe."
Mark Hayward, owner of 3DBabyVu, disagrees. "It's totally
safe," he says. "High-risk [obstetric] patients are actually put
through a protocol of weekly or biweekly ultrasound exams in their last
trimester. It makes me wonder, why would the babies at most risk see the
highest amount of ultrasound if it wasn't safe?"
To reassure customers, Hayward says 3DBabyVu employs licensed
sonographers who use the lowest ultrasound frequency possible and for no more
than 20 minutes.
Platt says ultrasound exposure at any length of time or level
does not ensure protection from harm. "This isn't something that should be
randomly done without really strong medical indications."
Laurinda Andrist, RDMS, RDCS, president of SDMS, agrees, noting
that in the obstetrics office where she works, she is careful not to overuse
ultrasound on even the most high-risk patients. "The women don't come in
and have an ultrasound at every visit," she says. "We need to manage
their care and have medical information extracted from that
Emphasizing the need for prudence, Andrist points to
radiographers who used to take random X-ray pictures of their hands, only to
find out years later that the radiation was harmful for them.
"I'd just really like to hug my baby now."
Robert Wolfson, MD, PhD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist
with a private practice in Colorado Springs, Colo., says he hears this comment
all the time from parents who see their baby through his 3-D ultrasound
machine. His office provides keepsake imaging in conjunction with, or
independent of, a diagnostic exam.
"People respond to a 3-D ultrasound imaging experience in a
wholly different way than they ever, ever did," says Wolfson. "What
families have told me is that they can really see their baby. They feel that
this is someone, not a something."