labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Ultrasounds Are Really For

I have to say that one of my biggest pet peeves are ultrasounds. Not ultrasounds by themselves, but how many women demand them for non-medical reasons, or totally ignore the fact that the 20 week ultrasound is done for a medical indication (ie, fetal survey for abnormalities) and not just so you can plan your baby shower in the right colors. I've cared for women who demand another fetal survey, or shall I say "the ultrasound to find out the sex", because everything that is required of a complete fetal survey is viewed, measured, and found to be normal and therefore completed, yet the baby has managed to tuck its genitals out of view for the entire procedure. And my answer, much to their dismay, has been- sorry, we can't do that. Even when the woman says, "But I will pay for it out of pocket", I've had to turn her down because the facility doing the ultrasound will only do medically indicated ultrasounds.

It is totally normal and fine for healthy, low risk pregnancies to not have more than one ultrasound, that being the fetal survey around 20 weeks. First trimester ultrasounds are only done in cases of infertility, history of miscarriage, symptoms of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (bleeding, pain), or nuchal translucency tests to screen for Down Syndrome risk- the latter being completely elective. Third trimester ultrasounds are done for medical indications like gestational diabetes, lupus or other connective tissue disease, growth concerns from fundal measurements or medical conditions, postdates, or follow up on placenta location from the fetal survey. (I realize my list is not all inclusive- I am sure this will be pointed out- but I wanted to keep this to the most common indications).

So as you can see, none of the ultrasounds that are done in pregnancy- whether it is one or ten- are done just so mom can have pictures and find out the sex of her baby. Those are just complementary benefits that are done for good customer service. I suppose this is where those places that offer the 3-D ultrasounds for an out of pocket fee that give you fancy pictures or a video of the entire scan fill a need. I even have seen obstetric private practices offer this service for several hundred dollars, but make it clear that it is separate from the official fetal survey, and is not meant for any diagnosis.

41 comments:

Wabi said...

As someone who has come up on the wrong side of the risk stats in pregnancy (I've lost a baby with trisomy 18), I share your peeve! So many people call the mid-pregnancy scan a "fun event" and even bring their older children with them.

But it's a TEST. I wish more people would treat it like that.

Katie said...

A good point, but why is that a problem? Ultrasounds are harmless, right? It's fine for an expectant mom to be excited about her new baby and want to know the sex; I don't think it's a bad thing for mom to want to plan her nursery colors in advance. If she wants to pay the extra couple hundred to indulge herself, it doesn't bother me. Doing so won't detract from the health of the baby, so in the interest of picking my battles (and reducing my own stress) I think this is one I can't see fussing over. (And please know that I say this with nothing more than respectful diagreement for the sake of discussion. I mean no offense.)

Joyce said...

I have to say I would not want to know the sex of the child - spoils the surprise at the birth! I hope my own kids when they have their own children don't tell me either - I still want the surprise!

Labor Nurse said...

Katie, I don't have a problem with people wanting to know the sex of their baby ahead of time or picking out appropriate nursery colors- its the total lack of understanding the true purpose of the ultrasoun that bothers me. I think Wabi's comment illustrates what I am saying perfectly.

And Joyce, I don't think you have any worries as neither of your children plan to find out in advance. So I'm told.

Anonymous said...

my ob actually uses ultrasound to diagnose pregnancy, too. I was shocked when I found out they didn't do pregnancy tests!

Katie said...

LN:
I see. Maybe people would benefit from something being written into the birthing class curriculum about this matter, even just a side note regarding the reasoning for the 20 wk. ultrasound.

Katie said...

(This is a different Katie than above.) As for whether ultrasounds are "harmless," the jury is out on that one. Large scale human studies have never been done, and animal studies point to possible harm. Here's a quick overview: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14231914/

Just one more reason why the current "technology first, ask questions later" (see the history of electronic fetal monitoring, for example) is a bad idea in pregnancy.

Ciarin said...

Katie, actually ultrasound is a fairly new technology in the frand scheme of things. We don't actually know what the possible long term consequences of repeated ultrasounds might be on the baby.

I get patients who request, and sometimes 'demand', another ultrasound to 'see the baby'. My response is usually something to the effect of "You'll see the baby when he/she comes out". Naturally, said in a humorous way along with an explanation of why we don't do repeated ultarsounds without medical indication.

Labor Nurse said...

I also want to reiterate that repeated ultrasounds in pregnancy has not had any long term studies done (to my knowledge- if anyone does have some good studies to point my way please do!!) that evaluate any side effects or bad sequelae. I think what really helped me understand that strong ultrasonic waves are being sent through the body when I accidently laid an ultrasound probe down on the belly of a woman who still had the fetal heart monitor (which also uses ultrasonic waves to detect the fetal heart tones) on her abdomen. The sound was startling, not to mention loud! Whether it is harmful or not, it certainly made me think that ultrasound isn't just some piece of plastic being laid on the abdomen.

Joy said...

I agree wholeheartedly with you! I'm not a nurse or a doctor- but I do help oversee a pregnancy forum at MedHelp (if you're familiar with that website). I cannot tell you how many women are obsessive with ultrasounds. They BRAG about how many they get (some of them get far too many; once a week sometimes!).

I am pregnant with my third child. I'm very excited for the 20-week scan so we can know the gender... but my main concern is if everything is alright! I know too many sad stories so I'm eager to hear that the heart, spine, etc. all look good.

Jill said...

I completely agree. It really alarms me to hear about women getting US at 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, 20 weeks...and then again at 26 weeks, 30 weeks, 35 weeks....and usually, there is no medical indication for so many! o.O Unless "just cuz!" is a new condition to look out for!

I think the routine 20 week US is a valuable enough tool that the benefits it can provide outweigh the potential risks. And I suppose I can justify the "luxury" 4D ultrasounds where you can get the 30-minute video and all that jazz, as long as they aren't being done at "US boutiques" every week or something. But I think the repeated, unnecessary exposure is where the potential risk lies. When there have been no studies done to show the safety of repeated US exposure, why take that chance??

Ethel said...

The clinic I use routinely uses a vaginal ultrasound to determine conception and due dates. I am glad they do, merely as it's reassuring to have the due date pushed back early when I know later the infants I give birth to are larger then average and they can't use fundal height as criteria for due dates. Probably they use it to their benefit in a similar way, and it's nice to see when miscarriage is complete too....

Reality Rounds said...

OMG! I work in OB and when I was pregnant with my first baby, I would have nurses "scan" me every week! During lunch break I would waltz over to an exam room while one of the well-meaning L&D nurses would scan me so I could see my little peanut moving. Very bad form. Tell me, do other pregnant L&D nurses scan themselves on break?

Mama to Monkeys said...

I refused all ultrasounds in my last pregnancy, and I can honestly say I got all kinds of crazy comments that basically boiled down to "what kind of fool/freak are you!?"

I knew what the risk I was taking could be, but at the same time, I couldn't help but think about the unknown risks of u/s and the risks to my mental state that any doubt in my dates/size/etc could bring on.

I have friends who have had 5, 6, 7 u/s', nevermind the ever-so-smart late term u/s to estimate baby's size....and then ended up with c/s' because the baby was going to be the size of a preschooler at birth. One estimated 11 lber was born 6lbs, 5oz. Preschooler, my a**.

Just another step on the slippery slope, in my opinion. Judicious use of technology--yes. Self-serving use--no thank you.

River Eden Doula said...

Is it common in your area to do ultrasounds really early in pregnancy (like the first tri) to determine the gestational age? Do you know if it is common elsewhere?

It seems like all of my doula clients get it done lately even if they are sure of their dates. It seems to me to be a bit of a dubious practice to do this to every woman but then again one of my client's due date was set back three weeks because of it and she went into labor on her own... she surely would have been induced if she had not had it done.

Noble Savage said...

And so the color coding gender conformity begins at the 20 week ultrasound...pink is gor girls, blue is for boys. Puke.

There are no 'appropriate' colors for children, only inappropriate adult reactions to and assumptions about them. Sorry, it's my pet peeve.

autoimmunelife said...

I have never understood pushing for extra ultrasounds.... of course I've also never been one to want to know the gender of my baby beforehand. I've known since I was a little girl that I want to be surprised. As someone with lupus I will get the ultrasounds done that are necessary to make sure the baby is ok... but I still won't have extra ultrasounds done... I don't see there being a point personally.
J

Heather the Mama Duk said...

Multiple ultrasounds are getting all too common. When I was pregnant with my daughter (she is 9) the OB group I went to did not do ultrasounds AT ALL on very low risk women (according to ACOG recommendations at the time). When I was pregnant with my first son (he is 7) the OB group (different group) did a first trimester u/s to confirm viability and a 30 week u/s to look for abnormalities (in the area where I lived all doctors did 30 weeks instead of 20 for some reason). I had to have another at 34 weeks because the tech mixed up the terms "low-lying placenta" and "anterior placenta."

When I was pregnant with my little boys (almost 3 and almost 1), the number of ultrasounds women seem to have has gone insane. I chose to have none with the almost 3 year old and 2 with the almost 1 year old (wouldn't have had any but I managed to get chicken pox - for the third time in my life - when I was less than 20 weeks pregnant so since IUGR is a risk and that would risk me out of having a homebirth we needed to be sure he was growing fine - and he was, thank goodness). But other women were having one to diagnose pregnancy or prove viability in the first trimester, another around 15-20 weeks, and another to check for position in the 34-36 week area. Some had more to check the baby's size.

I just can't understand why OBs don't just feel the baby's position (many of these women said the OB never touched them prior to the u/s - the position checks were not to confirm or deny breech, but just to see at all) and of course u/s sizing is rather inaccurate so size check via u/s seems crazy.

Really, I think women demanding so many u/s has been caused to a great degree by the OBs themselves doing so many for some women for very little reason that other women hear about them and insist they get several as well. The craziest were the women who got one every single visit because the OB had a machine in his office, so they would just "take a peak" every few weeks.

Sarahthedoula said...

Sarah J. Buckley has a very readable and very thorough chapter on the use of ultrasound technology in pregnancy in her book "Gentle Birth Gentle Mothering" (North American edition was released 2009). After reading her work I'm 99.5% convinced that I don't want ANY ultrasound in pregnancy! There's just so much we don't know....

womantowomancbe said...

I have had one ultrasound out of two pregnancies -- and that was two weeks before my "guess date" w/my 1st when the midwife thought she heard two heartbeats. Since she didn't attend twin home-births (and couldn't settle it to her satisfaction that there was just one heartbeat), it was imperative that we have an ultrasound if we were to have a home birth. It was a neat experience, to see the baby before he was born, and, yes, we decided to find out the sex. Although there was a little of the excitement gone at the birthing time, because it was like, "Oh, yeah, a boy, I knew that." [Oh, the reason for the sound of two heartbeats was an echo due to extra fluid.]

But my sister had ultrasounds EVERY VISIT, her last baby (he will be 4 this year). No reason, but her insurance covered them and her doctor basically said, "why not?" so they did them. But my sister didn't want to find out the baby's sex. But the last or next-to-last u/s, as he was scanning over the baby pointing things out said, "...and there are the testicles...." My sister was upset at finding out, but what can you do at that point? The doctor was apologetic, but he couldn't unsay the words! :-)

But I wonder if that is what makes my nephew such a freakin' loud-mouth! He says everything at full volume, and the studies I've read that say that perhaps u/s is, y'know, really *sound* even if you can't hear it, and/or that it does make a sound in the amniotic fluid (and therefore it may affect the baby's hearing) makes me wonder. Also, one of my email friends said that she had a "keepsake ultrasound" done when her baby was at 18 weeks or so, and they thought it was "so cute" that the baby put her hands up on her ears when the u/s started. And now she is convinced that the baby was in fact protecting her hearing.

Also, my first baby always swam away from the Doppler -- we didn't even get the heartbeat at 9 or 13 weeks, and then at 15 weeks it was very brief; even afterwards, she had to chase him with the scope sometimes because he would try to move away. At the time I was amused, because I thought it was a fluke that he was running away from the u/s (because Doppler is a form of u/s), and now I am convinced that he -- even at 9 weeks -- could hear or feel the u/s waves and was trying to stay away from them.

It's easy to throw out suggestions, and hard to back them up -- especially when there is such disparity between number of u/s, timing of them, how long they last, the type of equipment used, etc. Especially since most babies have at least one u/s, so where is the "control group" in retrospective studies? -- it would be among women who conscientiously choose not to have u/s done, which then is a self-selecting group who may also have many other confounding factors in common with certain outcomes.

-Kathy

Anonymous said...

I think, what we have here is just a sad commentary on the dismal state of people being educated by their caregivers. Doctors just all too often do not take the time to explain things to expectant moms and much is even neglected in prenatal classes.

I remember with my first being shocked afterwards that I was bleeding! I told my nurse and she was the one to tell me, "Honey, you're gonna have this for few weeks!" Isn't that jsut the most pathetic example?

So, when things get neglected to be mentioned and new moms don't know of the resources available to them, you can not blame them. I do not think any caring mom that wants to see her baby via ultrasound wants to inflict harm or pain to her baby...she just does not fully comprehend what is going on.

--Lee, Mom of 3

Labor Nurse said...

Well, who knew ultrasounds would be such a hot topic!

As far as first trimester ultrasounds for viability or dating- the places I've been have done them when indicated. For instance, the women has a strong history of miscarriage, or having symptoms of one, or if she really has no clue when her last period was and the due date is up for grabs.

Anonymous hits on an important point regarding the lack of teaching by providers. I agree with this, and the reasons why will lead to another post for another day....

Kathy, you mention a phenomenom that I've seen frequently- where the fetus moves away from the doppler. Although I know of no such data to indicate that the fetus finds the ultrasonic waves as loud, it certainly would make sense! Not sure anyone (fetus or adult) hears ultrasonic waves, but I am not one who is an expert by any means in radio frequencies or ultrasound technology. Like I had mentioned in an earlier comment here, when I accidently placed an ultrasound probe on a belly that still had the fetal monitor on...yikes!

Holly said...

Also a pet peeve of mine! I am not in the medical industry, but in the health insurance industry. I'm also pregnant with my first and am 26 weeks. I'm a member of a relatively large mommy forum and am shocked at how many ultrasounds people get.

One "harm" is that it drives up medical costs. You can't have it both ways - "well, insurance covers it" and "insurance costs too much" Health insurance is shared risk, as soon as the level of care provided goes up, the costs go up for everyone.

Melanie said...

I may fall in to the 'crazy' category, but I've been blessed with 4 healthy babies and no complications and zero ultrasounds. We didn't want to find out the sex, and the 3 different doctors I've had were all okay with not doing an ultrasound. I don't feel strongly about it either way, but it does seem like some doctors are ordering too many, too often!

Megan said...

Yes, what Holly said. I had 2 US with my pregnancy, one for the 20-week survey and one much later because my baby was measuring huge. Each US was billed at around $1000. Now, I didn't personally pay $1000, but that cost is a cost to the insurance company. And the more US are performed in a practice, the more machines and techs they need, which leaves less $$ available to buy other equipment and hire personnel trained in other areas.

And we did find out the sex at 20 weeks, not to decorate the nursery (which we eventually painted blue) but to get a head start on choosing *her* name. :) Yes, some parents still insist on labeling their offspring with gender-specific names. What can I say, I'm old-fashioned.

womantowomancbe said...

Re: L&D nurses doing lots of scans -- one of my friends was a L&D nurse when she was first pregnant, and did u/s on herself all the time. I don't know if it was every time she was on shift, or as infrequent as every week, but she just wanted to see the baby. [When I heard of Tom Cruise getting an u/s machine for his personal use when Katie whatshername (sorry, not very "up" on pop culture any more) was pregnant with their child, just so they could see the baby whenever they wanted, I thought of my friend.] But this level of use just seems invasive -- even if there were no risks, it's like not just trying to figure out what's underneath the wrapping paper at Christmas or your birthday, but actually unwrapping the present and even playing with the toys weeks in advance of the big date -- it just seems to mar the specialness and excitement of birth and the neonatal period. [Not that I think bad of anyone for doing it -- this is just the way it would feel for me -- and I think I would also be strongly tempted, if there were a free u/s machine for me to use whenever I wanted.]

However, I've also heard of one study that showed that when parents found out that their baby in utero was the "unwanted" or "less wanted" sex, they went through a period of rejection during pregnancy; but if they didn't find out until birth that their baby was the other sex, there was much less or even no rejection, but only love and acceptance. And there was another study that showed that when parents found out the sex of their baby in utero, they had a harder time dealing with the difficult neonatal period, because as they contemplated having "a boy" or "a girl", they fast-forwarded past the early months, and thought about their little princess girl or rough-and-tumble boy, imagining them in their toddler or pre-K years... and of course there is a *lot* of very baby-ish behavior that takes place before that time. But when parents did not find out the baby's sex, they tended to imagine their child as a baby (going back and forth between boy and girl, but almost always an infant), rather than an older child. Just some curious studies as food for thought.

-Kathy

Anonymous said...

My husband and I chose not to find out the gender at my 20 week perinatology ultrasound (only done because I am 39). Nevertheless, I was referred today for a Fetal ECG at 28 weeks for what sounded like an irregular heart beat. I was assured my my midwife that it will almost certainly be nothing; that in fact she has never had one come back positive for anything. So is this really necessary? I have been experiencing BH contractions; could this be the cause?

I cannot understand why pregnant women would request a medical procedure for non-medical findings. A healthy pregnancy is what we all strive for, and a healthy baby at the end of the journey. Is gender really that important?

Gabrielle

Basiorana said...

I'm getting a u/s and amnio with each of my kids (there's some bad things in our family tree and I want to be sure, and yes, the risk is worth it) and thus I will know the gender, one way or another. This is mostly because I want to start referring to my baby by name once the miscarriage-fear period has passed. It's not about decorating the nursery, it's about being able to think of the movement in my belly as a human being with a name rather than as a fetus. I've known new moms who continued to call their child "Baby" long after he or she was born, and I know I want to have long adjusted to thinking of my child as a individual person, not just a baby.

W said...

My wife had so many ultrasound scans we lost track. We both were aware of the potential risks of u/s ahead of time but the doctors insisted because it was a twin pregnancy.

There was a vaginal at 6 weeks (which missed the second baby), a nuchal translucency test at 16 (which is where we found out about the twin), a 25 week diagnostic, and for the last 8-10 weeks they did a BPP every week. I don't remember what BPP stands for, but it involved measuring everything again.

The part that made us both cringe was during the nonstress test when they put the fetal monitors on. It was pretty crowded in there so they had trouble keeping the second baby on the monitor. They had some sort of zapper that made a noise and starteled the baby to elevate his heart rate. It was a little heart breaking to listen to it go so fast all of a sudden.

Cindy said...

To give another perspective on the 'crazy' women who want ultrasounds here is my story very briefly. After years and years of infertility (including one miscarriage after a round of IF drugs) we came to terms with IF and pursued adoption. Three years after bringing home our amazing daughter I started getting sick and found out I was pregnant. I was TERRIFIED. I wanted another child, was thrilled to be pregnant, but I believed my body incapable of carrying a child to term. The only thing that relieved my terror was the ultrasounds and doppler scans. I burst into tears when my doctor said I wouldn't get an US at each visit. I was in a constant state of anxiety and fear until I rented a doppler for home use and could regularly check on the heartbeat between doctor visits. Until I could feel the baby move regularly the doppler was the only thing stopping daily panic attacks. Was any of this rational? No, but just maybe not all women who want 'lots' of US do it because of vanity or entertainment.

Anonymous said...

LN
I wouldn't be too concerned about the monitor picking up the output from the ultrasound wand and making a crazy noise. The electronics in the heart monitor were just responding to the RF from the wand. The heart monitor was most likely partially demodulating the ultrasound signal. You could liken it sticking a microphone in front of a speaker and getting the crazy feedback sound. That's not exactly what's going on, but it's a good analogy.
As far as the baby 'hearing' the energy being emitted from the wand, I doubt that is the case. The ultrasound frequency is around 2 megahertz, the highest we can hear is around 20 kilohertz. That ultrasound wave is oscillating about 100 times faster than our hears can even respond to.
I can't comment as to the safety of ultrasound, because I'm only an electrical engineer and not a doctor, but I doubt our little ones are hearing anything funky while an ultrasound is being performed.
-Brian

Nicole said...

This has definitely been a hot topic!! All of this reminds me of a conversation I had when an old friend of mine was pregnant. By her 16 week visit she had already had THREE ultrasounds! I asked her about it because I had recently read an article about the possible link between ultrasounds and hearing loss. I don’t know what ever came of that research but what we can say is most of what we know about the safety of ultrasounds is unproven and we certainly don’t have evidence that says multiple ultrasounds (especially the number that women are receiving now) are safe. She said the reason her provider used the ultrasound machine was because he could not find the heart beat with the Doppler. At 16 weeks and even at 12 weeks this was a poor excuse. As we continued the conversation, she gave a very interesting response and I knew she was the voice of many women across the country. “Well my doctor thinks it’s okay and maybe some women enjoy seeing their baby Nicole.” That was the end of the conversation. I thought to myself… “At the expense of potential harm to my baby I want to see it anyway.” WOW….. This is the same way many women deal with labor, epidurals, induction, etc… “My doctor thinks its fine”….While there are definitely times when repeated ultrasound is necessary and helpful. {Cindy you had a special situation and given the information you provided, I understand your desire for repeated ultrasounds.} The controversy around intervention is never about the benefits of a needed intervention. The controversy continues because we need to question how we/patients/providers determine what is necessary. Thanks labor nurse for raising another good topic for discussion.

Labor Nurse said...

Brian, thank you for your technical input. Despite the fact that fetuses unlikely hear the waves being transmitted via ultrasound, I wonder if the waves can be any long term effects on hearing or other problems we are now seeing such a rise of (the autism spectrum and allergies, for instance).

It's also been mentioned several times in the comments that teaching regarding the true purpose of ultrasound should be done in prenatal classes. A good suggestion, however- prenatal classes are done when the women is entering her third trimester and has already had several ultrasounds.

womantowomancbe said...

LN,

Your last comment (about fetuses hearing the waves or not) reminded me of something I've read about the kind of changes u/s may make. When I first heard it (from a chiropractor), I pooh-poohed it, but I have since seen it acknowledged in medical literature -- and that is that u/s has been shown to make changes to the cell on a chemical level. Perhaps these changes are not what typically happen in a regular u/s (maybe only in a stronger, longer and more repeated u/s?), but it is still bothersome to me -- especially since most people check out the baby's sex, I wonder if it may possibly cause future infertility or cancer in the pelvic region or something. And other problems in other parts of the body, as well. It's something I don't think has been studied well enough. (There is also evidence that u/s in the oceans from submarines and such causes whales and other animals to flee from the source of the u/s. Another curiosity I don't think has been studied well enough.)

-Kathy

Heather T said...

An interesting topic, indeed! I have had so many ultrasounds going through infertility treatment involving fibroids and in first trimesters of pregnancies for purely medical reasons (like documenting the situation inside just in case of a later miscarriage). Now that I'm well into my second trimester, I am grateful for ultrasounds that reveal a healthy baby and a healthy pregnancy. But I certainly don't crave them. If I don't have to have one, that means everything is good and ok.

During my current pregnancy, at my first trimester ultrasound/genetic screening, I asked the technician doing the imaging how people managed to get digital images of their ultrasounds to email and post to the web, facebook, blogs, you name it. She said she had no idea because they don't distribute them at all digitally; they only give physical printouts of a few images to the patient. In fact, she said that the insurance companies are not happy with the constant imaging for "entertainment" and sometimes threaten not to cover the cost of an ultrasound that wasn't necessary. The hospital just decided not to take any risks with respect to what form the images are given to patients.

Oh, by the way, I also have ultrasound images of fibroids long since gone, as well as photographs of my ovaries and fallopian tubes taken during various surgeries. They are so cute, you know?

kirbitz said...

Hi there labor nurse!

Thanks for this insightful post. Yes, i do agree wehn you said "one of the ultrasounds that are done in pregnancy- whether it is one or ten- are done just so mom can have pictures and find out the sex of her baby". What has been invented to give a diagnosis just cant be reduced as one of the fancy wants.

Thanks for the insight. ;)

Can we exchange links?

I run a blog about Nursing Negligence and Nursing Malpractices. It should be an interesting read for your readers as well. ;)

I have gone ahead and added you as "Labor Nurse Blog".

Look forward to your reciprocation. Thank again! and have a nice day!

-Nurse Jake
Nursing Negligence and Malpractices Blog

man-nurse said...

One problem I have with ultrasounds is that they can create more problems. I know a woman who had a baby in her late 30s, and her ultrasound (the first she'd ever had—this was years ago) showed a "possible abnormality". The doctor recommended an amnio, which carries its own risks, and started talking Down's syndrome and abortion options. The kid is now 18 years old and fine.

I can't get over that 18 week US you mentioned which diagnosed a breech and prompted a conversation about c-sections...

And do people even palpate moms anymore, or do they depend solely on ultrasounds? I complained in my blog a while back about a doctor who sectioned a mom for a breech that was seen on US a week prior...even though the baby had flipped.

I don't know if I really believe that ultrasounds are dangerous, especially late in the game, but it is kind of new. I mean, didn't they used to x-ray fetuses in some areas until ultrasounds were developed, despite knowing the dangers of radiation?

womantowomancbe said...

When my MIL was pregnant w/my husband and his twin brother, she had an X-ray at about 7 months to confirm twins, which was back in the late 60s. I'm pretty sure u/s had been developed before then, but was not widely used in medicine at that time. They used to use X-rays all the time to measure a woman's pelvis to see if it was "adequate" for birthing the baby she was carrying. That wasn't stopped until after it was shown that fetal exposure to X-rays increased the child's risk of developing leukemia [I don't know the date of this, but I'm reasonably certain that it was well before my husband's birth]. I've heard from a birth instructor & doula in Mexico that they still sometimes use X-rays for that purpose in her area!

-Kathy

Labor Nurse said...

xray pelvimetry was done in the 70s... prob into the 80s in some areas.

man-nurse said...

Well, my point is that it seems we stopped using x-rays around the time that ultrasounds became more common (probably read: cheaper).

Anonymous said...

Please help. I am sick ad tearful with worry after reading this and other stuff about ultrasounds. I dont know what to do. I too think I had too many (5 altogther)due to bleeding and previous problems and I got a doppler which I used very quickly for reassurance about 7/8 times but all before 20 weeks. Im so worried Ive hurt my baby, why is there all this assurance its safe when it may not be? Im so worried that evne though my baby is healthy that I have to wait for harm to appear later? Please no more scare stories but Im so worried andupset, Ive tried so hard to be so healthy in my pregnancy and now I find this, I just dont know what to do. xxx