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Are ultrasounds safe?

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  • Are ultrasounds safe?

    I am wondering if anyone knows if ultrasounds are 100% safe. I am 14 wks pregnant and have had 4 already (first trimester screening and also some earlier ones due to problems with spotting). My OB said that he will check the baby's hearbeat each visit which probably means more ultrasounds. I am concerned that this may affect the baby somehow. When enough is enough? Thanks in advance for thoughts on this.

  • #2
    Hi there

    Not sure about the safety, though I think most people err on the side of caution and keep them to a minimum. JanetF or Cosmic or someone (!) can probably provide you with some links.

    With regards to the heartbeat, your OB can check this without an ultrasound, so don't worry unnecessarily!


    • #3
      I would have had around 30ish ultrasounds with each of my bubs and dd and ds are very healthy and normal children.


      • #4
        I have absolutely no idea what the stats are, but I think, whatever they are you have to weigh them against the reason you are having the scan in the first place. For instance, my first was to check everyhting was ok due to a bleed, then I had the 18 weeker, then towards the end i was having them once, sometimes twice a week to check fluid levels and cord flow due to blood pressure. My ds is perfectly happy and healthy and has been from day 1. Do whay you feel is right for your baby. It is normal for bub's heartbeat to be checked at each visit and as someone else said they don't use ultrasound for this. Good luck!!


        • #5
          I had 5 during mine. First was to work out how far i was as there were questions in regards to this. Then the second was a little later as i was having dramas with m/s as well as spotting as well as abdominal pain. The third was the "normal" u/s which found an abnormality so had to have this checked twice more.
          Yes as other have said its best to err on the side of caution but also you need to weigh up the reasons as to why your having them done.
          Oh & as Nicole79 said there are other ways to check bubs heartbeat, u/s isnt the standard way of checking bubs heart rate mine was always checked using a doppler but then at times i was also checked with the old style earpiece put to my tummy depending on the midwife.


          • #6
            During my first pregnancy, I declined ultrasounds because the idea simply felt wrong to me - call it intuition. I did a lot of research but only found little information on ultrasound research but that alone was enough for me to decline all ultrasounds.

            4 years later, there is a LOT more information to be found and it appears that people are beginning to realise that ultrasounds are not as safe nor effective as previously thought. Here is a bunch of info off my bookmarks. You could probably find more if you looked.

            Information on Ultrasounds and Dopplers

            Dr Sarah J Buckley - Ultrasounds: Reason for Caution?
            Studies on humans exposed to ultrasound have shown that possible adverse effects include premature ovulation (Testart 1982), preterm labour or miscarriage (Lorenz, 1990; Saari-Kemppainen 1990), low birth weight (Newnham, 1993, Geerts 1996), poorer condition at birth (Thacker 1985; Newnham, 1991), perinatal death (Davies 1992) dyslexia (Stark 1984), delayed speech development (Campbell, 1993) and less right-handedness (Salvesen 1993: Kieler 1998a, Salvesen 1999, Kieler 2001). Non right-handedness is, in other circumstances, seen as a marker of damage to the developing brain (see Odent 1998, Keiler 2001). One Australian study showed that babies exposed to 5 or more doppler ultrasounds were 30% more likely to develop intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) - a condition that ultrasound is often used to detect (Newnham, 1993
            FDA Cautions Against Ultrasound 'Keepsake' Images
            Still, ultrasound is a form of energy, and even at low levels, laboratory studies have shown it can produce physical effects in tissue, such as jarring vibrations and a rise in temperature. Although there is no evidence that these physical effects can harm a fetus, the FDA says the fact that these effects exist means that prenatal ultrasounds can't be considered completely innocuous.
            Extract online from "Obstetric Myths vs Research Realities" - Henci Goer
            In other words, Ultrasound technology carries potential risks that have not yet been evaluated, yet many doctors are telling women that there is no risk.
            Having an ultrasound is NOT essential to a healthy pregnancy. However, most doctors are trained to use expensive technology and NOT trained to use hands-on skills.

            "Unnecessary Exposure" includes the use of ultrasound to:

            1. Confirm the sex of the baby.

            2. Assess gestational age (how many weeks old the baby is).

            3. Assess fetal size and growth.

            4. Confirm multiple pregnancy.

            5. Determine fetal presentation (the position of the baby in the womb).

            Many health care professionals still use ultrasound for these purposes anyway, even though the American Medical Association has not approved its use for these purposes.
            ACF News Source - Ultra Hearing Fetus
            "It's common knowledge among doctors," he says, that "fetuses responded to ultrasound by increasing their movement."

            "We presume that the baby moves so many times in a 24 hour period, we presume it has so much breathing activity, but much of that is based on what we see in ultrasound," Ogburn says. Doctors have assumed they are looking at a fetus in a normal state, but they now know that during ultrasound exams, fetuses are actually in an agitated state due to the loud noises they are hearing. "If we want to know more about how the fetus behaves," he says, "we will have to develop an ultrasound machine that does not disturb the fetus with noise."


            • #7
              Originally posted by Aurora
              During my first pregnancy, I declined ultrasounds because the idea simply felt wrong to me - call it intuition. I did a lot of research but only found little information on ultrasound research but that alone was enough for me to decline all ultrasounds.
              I sort of felt the same with my Mickayla - I did have one done, at 18wks but otherwise just felt I wanted to leave bubba in peace

              However this time round I have had three and will have one more that I know of - this is mainly because I mc'd twice last year and the peace of mind for me was worth while

              Great question though, congratulations on already being a great mum!


              • #8
                I think Aurora's post sums up what the concerns are.

                Keep in mind that even after X-rays were proven to be harmful they were still being used as there was no alternative. So we have to wonder how long they will continue to do ultrasounds, simply because there is no other option yet.

                Some choose to decline them altogether. I personally choose not to have any that are unnecessary (and my opinion of what is necessary or not will probably be different with my next baby having done some more reading!)


                • #9
                  Thanks for your replies, everyone. Will definitely be checking if the u/s is really necessary from now on.


                  • #10
                    Well there is probably information out there that suggests not to have too many scans due to complications it could cause.

                    I had 7 scans up to 12 weeks as I had alot of problems. I asked the senographer early on if I was to have a few scans can this cause problems and she said that they say not too, but then that is just to cover their buts, as nothing has been entirely proven.

                    Anyway we are 22.5 weeks on now and all is good, and I am glad I had every single one of them for peace of mind. Guess it all depends on your situation. My friend had 7 m/c's and a stillborn, and she kept pushing me that if I was concerned have a scan! She now has a gorgeous 6mth old.

                    Guess we all just have to make our own choices dependant on the situation. If I didn't have all my problems I would not have had so many that is for sure!


                    • #11
                      regarding the safety of ultrasound:

                      I just wanted to remind everyone that both the obstetric ultrasound (where you can see the baby on the screen) AND the doppler the doctor/midwife uses to hear the heartbeat are both ultrasonography devices. If there is any harm associated with ultrasound, I would imagine the handheld doppler unit would pose much less of a risk, as the exposure is usually for <30 seconds.

                      thanks for all the other posts - that's great information.

                      Another thing: I've read somewhere (maybe I'll find the source later) that 'routine' ultrasound during pregnancy has NO BENEFIT to the health of the baby. That is, it does NOT decrease the incidence of IUGR or stillbirth.



                      • #12
                        My sister is a radiologist who specialises in women's imaging (pregnancy & gynae). She says they are safe. She wouldn't have scanned me or my sisters when we were pregnant if there was any doubt.

                        I believe her


                        • #13
                          i had 10 very long scans with zoe...shes fact she's the easiest bub ive had ....bring on the scans


                          • #14
                            When I was pregnant with Jacob, I had 4 scans. 2 were 35mins long each, the other 2 were just over 3hrs each. He is 9yrs old now and perfectly healthy.