Ultrasound, which is usually done for checking the health and growth of fetus inside the womb, is now popularly marketed as a way to bond with the baby before its birth.
These “keepsake” ultrasound services have become very popular since past 10 years. Ultrasounds are usually done to tell the size and health of a fetus and also to detect any abnormalities before birth. However entertainment ultrasounds are primarily used to capture pictures and videos of baby yawning, waving, squirming and kicking inside the womb. Such baby pictures and videos have become increasingly popular despite the safety warnings issued by Food and Drug Administration.
The ever-increasing demand of such detailed pictures of the unborn child, has given rise to the birth of more such centers all over the world.
The clinics where such entertainment ultrasounds are done, look like a spa and offer 2D-3D-4D photos and videos and such other services which are not currently regulated or approved by health regulatory bodies in Canada, reported CBC.
These pictures make their way to baby showers and parties as an ideal gift and are also sold in the form of image packages.
Ray Foley, Executive Director for the Ontario Association of Radiologists said, "There are probably more rules about nail salons than there are about these things. I wouldn't send my wife there; I wouldn't send any woman I know there. Why would you want to go there if you think that even if there is an extremely small risk to your unborn child that you obviously want to have born happy and healthy?"
The next major threat of such ultrasounds is the gender specific abortions. These ultrasounds might determine the gender of the fetus earlier than the normal regular ultrasounds and this might result in more gender specific abortions, which is common in India and China currently, causing gender imbalances.
Though ultrasounds are harmless for the growing fetus, it is recommended to be carried out only by a doctor to foresee any abnormalities, defects and to monitor the growth.
Health professionals have warned against the use of “keepsake” ultrasounds which can have biological effect on the fetus. More fundamentally, medical and entertainment ultrasound examinations have different purposes and goals.
In the year 1994, the FDA first became aware of this practice and conducted a detailed investigation. A statement issued by FDA: “persons who promote, sell, or lease ultrasound equipment for making ‘keepsake’ fetal videos should know that we view this as an unapproved use of a medical device.”
The FDA further states that “we can’t assume prenatal ultrasounds are completely innocuous” and that “It’s risky business taking pictures of unborn babies when there’s no medical need to do so,” concluding that “the bottom line is: why take a chance with your baby’s health for the sake of a video?” After the investigation, FDA was successful in closing down many such centers.
It is illegal to promote ultrasound for non-medical use. Moreover, these centers use $100,000 high-density ultrasound machines that produce incredibly clear pictures of the unborn child, but might pose a threat to its health.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada is now calling for a complete ban on these “entertainment” ultrasounds, reports CBC today.
Dr. Michiel Van den Hof, spokesman for the society says, “I would suggest a complete ban. That’s going to take a government initiative and certainly that’s one I would endorse. We do not at all condone sex selection by pregnancy termination. And we oppose it vehemently.”
This sudden stir was created after a hidden-camera investigation revealed many “entertainment ultrasound clinics”, willing to disclose the gender of the fetus.
The investigation was carried out by CBC’s I-Unit and its studies showed that the practice of aborting girls in favor of boys is prevalent also in Canada and is as severe as it is in India.
According to The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, these "keepsake ultrasound" sessions are longer than the regular medical ones; a mother could be going to many sessions thus exposing the baby to more energy from these machines quite often.
The FDA said, "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..prenatal ultrasounds can't be considered completely innocuous."
We can only hope that public education and awareness will bring an end to gender discriminatory abortions, and eventually, unnecessary ultrasounds.