You may have seen them popping up in storefronts, with such names as O Baby, Baby Preview, Sneak a Peek, and Belly Love Spa. They’re ultrasound boutiques, where mothers-to-be can get 3-D and real-time 4-D images of their unborn babies, sometimes with such available extras as baby clothes or spa treatments.
Are such businesses just a sweet way for parents and other family members to be introduced to a not-yet-newborn? Or are they a potential danger to both mother and unborn child?
Last week, an article by Taya Flores of the Lafayette Courier & Journal in Lafayette, Indiana, looked at Baby Bliss Ultrasound in Lafayette. Debra J. Madura, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Indiana University Arnett Hospital in Lafayette, cautioned that mothers-to-be should realize they will not get a diagnostic ultrasound but otherwise didn’t see a problem:
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I think they’re fun. I don’t think there is any harm done to mom or baby.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration disagrees, FDA spokeswoman Susan Laine told the reporter:
Performing prenatal ultrasounds without medical oversight may put a mother and her unborn baby at risk. The FDA views fetal keepsake videos as a problem because there is no medical benefit derived from the exposure.
The FDA points out that ultrasound can heat tissues, and that long-term effects of such heating have not been studied. “Using ultrasound equipment only through a prescription ensures that pregnant women will receive professional care that contributes to their health and to the health of their babies,” said Laine, “and that ultrasound will be used when medically indicated.”
As we reported back in March, the Canadian Association of Radiologists and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada also oppose nonmedical uses of fetal ultrasound—even to learn the sex of the baby. In a joint statement, they said, “This technology should not be used for the sole purpose of determining fetal gender without a medical indication for that scan.”
Megan Simmons, who along with her husband, Aric, and Aric’s parents was at Baby Bliss getting a first glimpse of her unborn son, wasn’t thinking about medical indications. She just wanted a peek at her little boy. “It’s nice to give it a couple months to see what the baby looks like and double-check the gender before you start decorating the nursery,” she said. “This was the first time I actually got to see what he looks like.”
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Related CME seminar (up to 14.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): Advances in Fetal and Neonatal Imaging