Canada’s national associations of radiologists and ob-gyns have issued a joint policy statement saying fetal ultrasound should not be used for “entertainment”—or even solely for determining the sex of a fetus.
The Canadian Association of Radiologists and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada released the statement last month. It opposes all nonmedical uses of fetal ultrasound, which would rule out a pretty common practice:
This technology should not be used for the sole purpose of determining fetal gender without a medical indication for that scan.
The emphasis is in the original.
So what’s this all about? According to medical journalist Sharon Kirkey, writing on the news site Canada.com, some commercial, for-profit clinics “are offering special packages that include three- and four-dimensional ultrasound pictures and videos of babies in the womb, cellphone ringtones of a baby’s fetal heartbeat, and live broadcasting to family and friends.”
Concern has also been expressed in Canada about using ultrasound as a sex-selection tool, leading to abortion of the fetus if it is female. An April 17, 2012, editorial in Canadian Medical Association Journal said that when Asians migrated to Canada, “Sadly, a few of them also imported their preference for having sons and aborting daughters.”
To stop that practice, the editorial recommended restrictions on revealing the sex of the fetus: “The sex of the fetus is medically irrelevant information (except when managing rare sex-linked illnesses) and does not affect care. Moreover, such information could in some instances facilitate female feticide. Therefore, doctors should be allowed to disclose this information only after about 30 weeks of pregnancy—in other words, when an unquestioned abortion is all but impossible.”
Kirkey interviewed Alla Boulavkina, a registered diagnostic medical sonographer and owner of Tri-Cities 3D Sono Image in Vancouver. Boulavkina said she offers sex-determination ultrasounds, but only after 20 weeks of gestation, when abortion is generally not available in British Columbia.
She said parents sometimes had important reasons for knowing a baby’s sex early, and “not just to start shopping.”
“It helps people to prepare and be happy,” she said. “Because sometimes daddy wanted a boy, and then he sees girl, and he’s not happy, and it’s no good for the family. In this case, it gives time to slowly be prepared.”
* * *
A scanning technique “much like medical imaging” finds a surprise under the notorious former prison known as Alcatraz. For details, see our Facebook page.
Related CME seminar (up to 17 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): Fetal and Women’s Imaging: Advances in Ob-Gyn Ultrasound, with Emphasis on the Fetal Heart