One thing that mothers and father like to wonder about when they first find out that they’re expecting is what the baby will look like. With modern technology, they can find out what the baby looks like. Ultrasounds have become commonplace in many pregnant women’s medical routines. They can get a sneak peek of their baby, after all, and they can even determine sex.
Not only that but sometimes birth defects and diseases can be detected via ultrasound–oh, and if there’s more than one baby in there, they can find that in an ultrasound, too.
All this makes for a compelling reason to get an ultrasound. In fact, many mothers get them simply because they think they’re supposed to and believe that it’s something that’s required. However, with ultrasounds becoming more and more popular and the technology changing by the minute, their safety is coming into question.
A lot of people believe in a lot of untruths about ultrasounds. In fact, they might not be as safe and trustworthy as we believe them to be.
In this article, we’ll discuss some studies that have been done to determine the safety of ultrasounds. We’ll talk about what the official medical centers in the U.S. have to say about them, and the potential risks involved in ultrasounds. We’ll also talk about whether or not they’re even useful, if not fun.
There are things here that most people don’t even know about ultrasounds, and they might not be pretty. In fact, some of these truths are a little ugly.
In Michigan, obstetricians studied 57 women at risk of premature birth. One-half of them got ultrasounds weekly and the rest had simple pelvic exams without the ultrasound. Preterm labor more than doubled in the smaller group. The difference came out to be 52 percent, compared with 25 percent in the control group. The numbers may have been small, but the difference couldn’t have been coincidental.
In addition, a larger group from Helsinki randomly divided 9,000 women into a group who were scanned at 16-20 weeks and found that they were much more likely to miscarry.
The risk is also there for people who work with ultrasound equipment. Studies show that women who work more than 24 hours in a week with ultrasound equipment are much more likely–10 times more likely–to have a spontaneous abortion.
Being around radiation equipment constantly is dangerous for a fetus, and this statistic was true for people who worked with radiation equipment as well as just ultrasound equipment. People often forget that ultrasounds are in fact radiation.
Doctors all over the world use ultrasound technology for an assortment of reasons. They can locate thyroid problems, break up kidney stones, and identify tumors as well as look at babies in mothers. With ultrasounds popping up all over the place, people assume them to be safe. However, this simply isn’t the case.
Ultrasounds have never been proven to be entirely safe and in fact some studies suggest that they aren’t–we’ll get into exactly what the FDA and AHA have to say about them later.
With ultrasounds having never been proven safe, mothers might want to re-think checking in on the baby early. It might be nice to know the sex, sure, but it’s also not necessary. And as we discussed with the placental previa, it’s not always even useful to detect birth defects in the uterus before birth.
It can have detrimental emotional effects to families, too. So, it’s all something to think about when considering–as a mother should be thinking carefully before submitting to tests–an ultrasound.
13 Detecting Placental Previa With An Ultrasound
Placental previa is a condition in which the placenta (the sac of fluid surrounding the baby) partially or wholly blocks off the uterus. This makes birth extremely difficult, as the fetus is unable to pass through the placenta. Often, mothers will have ultrasounds done to assess whether or not they have previa.
The usefulness of this, however, has been put under scrutiny and questioning by medical professionals.
Previa, while a serious condition and while identifiable early on, can’t really be prevented. If a woman gets an ultrasound and finds out that she has this condition, there’s no real way to do anything next. It can’t be changed or altered, and often goes untreated regardless. Therefore, it’s worth asking whether or not getting the ultrasound done is worth it in the first place.
The only change is that now the mother is worried because she has been told she has a disease of the placenta.
12 The Emotional Impact Ultrasounds Have
The emotional impact of ultrasounds is sometimes beautiful. Parents get to look at their babies for the first time, and for the most part, this is excellent. They get to start coming up with names upon determining the sex of the baby. They get excited and undoubtedly this is good, right?
Well, in a lot of cases, ultrasounds can have hugely negative impacts on families as a whole. If a birth defect is found, or if there’s something in the baby that doctors think could lead to a birth defect, the emotional effect in the parents is shocking.
Many parents will try to avoid forming a bond with a baby that doctors think might not make it. They’ll avoid loving their baby so that they don’t have to cope with the stress that could come along with the baby passing away. In addition, some parents will take small and inconsequential things to mean that the baby will have a permanent brain defect.
This can lead to them dreading the birth of their baby, which might be entirely ‘normal.’ A baby that is born with a defect doesn’t deserve to be dreaded, but that’s the effect ultrasounds can have on families.
11 Submiting To Tests
It is important that mothers remember that they shouldn’t feel obligated to submit to any tests that they don’t want to. Many times, pregnant women feel like they are better off trusting doctors. In most cases this is true. Doctors are trained to keep their patients healthy and ensure a healthy baby in the process.
However, it’s also important to remember that medical centers are businesses. They won’t do anything to harm patients except in extremely rare cases, but they will offer unnecessary services to make extra money.
Ultrasounds are often entirely unnecessary. It might be nice to see the sex of the baby, but they aren’t necessary (we’ll talk more about why even birth defects aren’t worth knowing about beforehand) and might be detrimental. Mothers should do their own research before submitting to tests and allowing ultrasounds.
Knowing the risks before getting tests done can bolster confidence and save a lot of money and time.
10 Do Ultrasounds Heat Up The Womb?
One of the things that ultrasounds have done in mice is that they have actually caused brain hemorrhaging–we have discussed that, but we haven’t discussed why. Ultrasounds release pulses of radiation through the skin, muscles, and other tissue.
The reflection of that pulse is what causes an image to reflect onto the screen. This pulsing is usually incredibly fast, and that causes a lot of heat to build up.
As a result, babies are exposed to a lot of heat during an ultrasound. This is usually harmless to the baby as long as it isn’t done too often, but proper care should be taken when getting an ultrasound.
Ensure that the doctor delivering the ultrasound has the proper equipment and that the doctor is using that ultrasound fluid that feels cold to the touch. It’s all for the safety of mother and baby and all makes the process go by much smoother.
9 Speech Delays Due To Ultrasounds
Believe it or not, some studies have actually linked ultrasound to some different problems in babies. One thing that ultrasounds have been loosely linked to–albeit the study does not conclude that ultrasounds are dangerous–speech delay in young children. This is because of the nature of an ultrasound. An ultrasound is, to a baby, loud. And not just obnoxiously loud.
Imagine the loudest concert possible, and then double it. That’s about the level of noise that a baby experiences during an ultrasound, and sure enough, it can be damaging.
Many babies that have come from mothers who received an above-average amount of ultrasounds during her pregnancy have speech delays of some sort during their lives. These speech delays can be anywhere from mild hiccups to full-on speech impediments.
Sometimes these speech problems can be worked out through speech therapy, often offered at public elementary schools, but sometimes they are more permanent problems that the child will have their whole lives.
8 The Mouse Fetal Study
While studies in human babies have not definitively said that babies are harmed by ultrasounds–and we’ll talk more about that later–the same cannot be said about animal studies. Animal studies have successfully linked ultrasounds to fetal problems and complications in birth.
Specifically, these complications were found in mice (mice are often used in studies because their brain chemistry is incredibly similar to that of a human’s) and the studies are quite astonishing.
One study found that when an ultrasound was applied in the same pulses as what a human fetus would experience, mice fetuses acquired brain hemorrhaging. This means that the brain was seriously damaged. These fetuses also experienced twice the rate of cell death and a 22 percent drop in cell division, meaning a slower growth rate and other brain problems.
The ultrasound at diagnostic levels has also been proven to cause lung problems in mice and mouse fetuses.
7 What The Professionals Say
With all the controversy surrounding ultrasounds, a lot of questions come to mind. Especially a mother who might be doing research on ultrasounds before submitting to one might ask the question ‘what do professionals say?’ It’s one thing to look online, but it’s entirely different to get information from medical professionals and acclaimed centers of science.
Several major institutes of medicine have delivered statements about ultrasounds and they’re all about the same.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and American Institute of Ultrasound and Medicine have both never issued formal statements that declare ultrasounds safe. In fact, the FDA has gone on record to say that mothers should avoid ultrasounds in excess unless they’re necessary.
While no administration has come forward and said outright that they are dangerous, those statements are open to the mother’s interpretation and are worth taking into consideration if they have questions about whether or not ultrasounds are for them.
6 Ultrasounds At 8 To 12 Weeks
Some doctors will do an ultrasound right at the beginning of the pregnancy to confirm the pregnancy. It’s highly advisable to skip this; it’s incredibly expensive and it’s every bit as easy to pick up a drugstore pregnancy test to determine pregnancy. It can be believed that an early ultrasound gives a due date.
However, again, there’s a cheaper option: go by the last menstrual cycle, and do the math from there. Of course, if a person is irregular, getting an ultrasound might be helpful in determining a due date. But for the average person, it’s not necessary.
Very few problems can be determined at this stage. In addition, sex can’t be determined at this stage, either. So all in all, it’s not anything that will be life-changing or exciting, and will result in a lot of money spent on stuff that people can find out on their own time. Unless a mother isn’t sure if her period is a good way to track a due date, ultrasounds are largely unnecessary for the 8-12 week period of time.
5 The 20 Week Ultrasound
Twenty-week scans, unlike 8-12 week scans, check for a lot of specific things. A doctor will measure body parts to ensure that everything is developing normally in the baby. The head will be examined, as well as the face, spine, abdomen, stomach, kidneys, and limbs.
If the baby is over 14 days bigger than what the doctor predicted, the due date set earlier might change a bit, but probably not by much. It’s important to remember that due dates are just guidelines and don’t determine exactly when the baby will be born.
A problem with the placenta can also be determined at this time. However, as we discussed earlier, little can be done to adjust the placenta. Usually, the placenta will move by the time labor starts, resulting in the problem absolving itself. The sex of the baby will be determined at this ultrasound, as will any disorders or defects that have happened.
4 3-D And 4-D Ultrasounds
Whether or not a person believes in standard ultrasounds is up to them. However, the one thing that is not up for debate is the safety of three-dimensional and four-dimensional ultrasounds. They aren’t safe and should always be avoided.
The FDA specifically warns against a three-dimensional ultrasound, stating that the process of ultrasound can actually heat up the tissues, and have the ability cavitation or small bubbles in some of the tissues, and advising to see a medical professional to get a standard ultrasound.
The problem with three and four-dimensional ultrasounds is that they are far too intense, producing a high level of heat radiation. For this reason, they can damage a baby. In addition, they aren’t performed by someone licensed to perform ultrasounds.
Sonographers are people who are licensed and trained to control the amount of radiation exposed to the baby, they have the training to know exactly how to handle sonography equipment and get a good ultrasound without hurting the baby.
3 What The Studies Show
Some of the studies that we have looked over have cast a negative light on ultrasounds and have made them look rather dangerous. It’s important to look at the bones of what these studies have to tell us, though.
The conclusions of these studies all have to do with miscarriage, birth defects, and other frightening things, but they all have a common disclaimer in their conclusions. Ultrasounds have no legitimate link to birth defects, premature births, or miscarriages.
While ultrasounds have not been declared safe officially, the same can be said about them being unsafe. There’s no actual scientific proof that says that ultrasounds are unsafe. In fact, ultrasounds do identify a lot of problems and give a lot of parents time to prepare for different problems.
While they might not prevent those problems, they can prepare parents emotionally for any complications that come up during the pregnancy process and after the birth.
2 What Really Matters
It’s important to note the importance of ultrasounds in discovering birth defects, diseases, and twins in mothers that may be expecting none of those things. However, it’s equally important to weigh the value of knowing about those things.
A lot of birth defects and disease can’t be helped, and having the ultrasound won’t do anything to change the fact that the baby will have that problem. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and many mothers would agree that they would rather have a stress-free pregnancy and deal with the trouble when it comes.
However, it’s important to have a heads-up if a baby is going to have a major complication. For example, heart problems can be detected in ultrasounds, and those heart problems will mean a lot of surgery sometimes, and surgery is expensive.
Couples need all the warning they can get before having a baby with heart complications or Down Syndrome or another birth defect so that they can prepare their hearts and homes to have that baby and give it the best possible experience.
1 Ultrasounds Can Have False Positives
While it’s integral to know whether or not a baby has a disorder so that the parents can plan accordingly and prepare the home accordingly, this can backfire. Many parents will find that after a diagnosis made based on an ultrasound, the baby might end up perfectly healthy.
On the flip side and much grimmer side of things, an ultrasound might show a perfectly healthy baby with no complications or problems, causing parents to relax and not plan at all.
False positives can also seriously damage the relationship that a parent will form with their child. They may feel betrayed and have a harder time forming a bond with the child that they weren’t prepared for.
It can be intensely depressing to have a child with complications when they were given the all-clear only weeks before. For this reason, some parents prefer to go in blind and not get the ultrasound at all.