The Truth About Baby Ultrasound

Here’s info on the risks vs. rewards of pregnancy ultrasounds – plus a “middle way” to help you reap all the benefits and minimize the dangers.

Here's info on the risks vs. rewards of pregnancy ultrasounds - plus a "middle way" to help you reap all the benefits and minimize the dangers.

To ultrasound or not to ultrasound? That is the question.

For most pregnant mamas, ultrasounds are just a given. Of course I’ll get ultrasounds!

But there are actually some potential risks when it comes to ultrasounds. And studies haven’t shown any improvement in fetal outcomes when diagnostic ultrasounds are used.


As a natural mama, we want to avoid as many interventions as possible during pregnancy and birth. But, if you’re anything like me, you might want at least one baby ultrasound throughout your pregnancy to check for baby’s anatomy and make sure everything is OK.

And that’s cool. There may be a sort of “middle way” when it comes to baby ultrasounds, which I detail below.

But just know that, while ultrasounds may be beneficial, they are not evidence-based, mandatory, or without risks.

Benefits of baby ultrasound

There may be a number of benefits to having an ultrasound during pregnancy.

Due dating

Some studies have concluded that a baby ultrasound before 14 weeks gestation is the most accurate way to predict the due date. Some studies also found that when women had an ultrasound for dating they were less likely to be induced for post-term pregnancy.

However, if you have a practitioner like a midwife who is ok with continuing to closely monitor a post-term pregnancy, this may not be an issue for you.

Other studies have found that dating from the last menstrual period was just as accurate as dating from an ultrasound.

Better yet, use our advanced due date calculator to determine a more accurate result than standard due date calculators.

Keep in mind as ultrasounds get later and later during the pregnancy, they become much less reliable in predicting accurate due dates. Ideally, a dating ultrasound would need to be done in the first trimester, usually around 8-12 weeks gestation. This can be helpful for moms who don’t have predictable periods or remember the last time they menstruated.

Sex of baby

An obvious benefit to a baby ultrasound is learning the sex of your baby.

Sure, many parents prefer to wait and be surprised, but others want to know before the birth, and the ultrasound allows that.

But there are other ways to discover your baby’s sex, including some of the non-invasive genetic screening tests that take a sample of the mother’s blood – e.g. the MaterniT21 test.

Confirming twins

If your midwife or OB suspects you are having twins, they will recommend a baby ultrasound to confirm.

What could tip your midwife off? Symptoms of having twins include:

  • Being especially famished
  • Struggling with intense morning sickness
  • Growing larger or faster than normal
  • Palpating (feeling from the outside) two babies
  • And having an extra active belly 🙂

Some women who are carrying twins don’t have any symptoms. An ultrasound is one way to confirm, although not always in the early trimesters because one twin can hide behind the other in utero.

Find out your chances of having twins in this just-for-fun quiz we created.

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy will have it’s own set of symptoms like abdominal pain and bleeding. An ultrasound can help confirm or rule out an this condition.

Typically symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy would be apparent within the first 8-10 weeks of a pregnancy.

If you believe you may be having an ectopic pregnancy, call your doctor right away, as it can be very dangerous.

Placenta previa

Placenta previa is when the placenta attaches in the lower part of the uterus and may entirely or partially cover the cervix. Getting a baby ultrasound can help determine if you may have a low lying placenta.

Most cases that are diagnoses early in pregnancy completely resolve by delivery, so some women don’t want to know at 18-20 weeks (when the typical anatomy scan is done). Other moms would prefer to know that everything is OK so they can feel relaxed and confident walking into their natural birth.

However, one study found that early detection of placenta previa through ultrasound didn’t change fetal outcomes. It did find, however, that 246 of the 250 women who were diagnosed with placenta previa ended up NOT having it at delivery.

Additionally, placentas that partially or fully cover the cervix often cause a “warning bleed” sometime after 20 weeks but usually in the last weeks of pregnancy. This is one way moms who choose not to have ultrasounds can evaluate their risk of placenta previa.

Here’s more information about placenta previa.

Heart rate monitoring

The handheld doppler that midwives use to hear the baby’s heartbeat as well as a fetal heart rate monitor that is used at the hospital are other forms of ultrasound.

A doppler can obviously confirm the pregnancy and can be comforting to a new mom who is still not convinced she’s pregnant!

Sometimes, these ultrasounds can detect potential heart issues, which may be confirmed in the 20 week ultrasound. Interesting to note, the doppler actually has higher levels of ultrasound than those used for imaging (more on this later); however, it is used for a much shorter period of time especially for checking the fetal heart beat for prenatal appointments.

One option for moms who don’t want to use handheld dopplers for fetal heart rate monitoring can use a fetoscope. However, a fetoscope, similar to a stethoscope, can’t detect a heartbeat until 18-20 weeks gestation, while a doppler can detect a heartbeat around the 12 week mark. It may also take longer to find the baby’s heartbeat with a fetoscope, so it could be more challenging to use this device during labor when its difficult for the mother to remain still.

Bonding with baby

Some mothers, like myself, want  a glimpse of their baby in utero as a way to connect with their child and to be sure everything is developing normally. I had a friend who discovered that her baby only had one kidney in her 20 week scan. She was able prepare for his birth by getting some specialists in line so her son had the best care after birth.

Risks of baby ultrasound: Safety has not been proven

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) state:

“Currently, there is no reliable evidence that ultrasound is harmful to a developing fetus. No links have been found between ultrasound and birth defects, childhood cancer, or developmental problems later in life. However, it is possible that effects could be identified in the future. For this reason, it is recommended that ultrasound exams be performed only for medical reasons by qualified health care providers.” (emphasis added)

However, there is some concern about the heat generated by ultrasound machines. An increase in tissue temperature of 1.8 – 2.7 degrees F is thought to be safe. Studies have found that ultrasound, either regular pulsed or doppler (ultrasound technology that sends a continuous wave of ultrasound rather than the pulses of a traditional ultrasound), may heat tissue above the maximum safe temperature especially in and around boney areas and especially when the wand is help in place for longer than 2-3 seconds.

Additionally doppler ultrasound has been shown to cause significant heating, especially in the baby’s developing brain, which may point to continuous waves of ultrasound being more problematic than traditional ultrasound.

Animal studies have found a connection between ultrasounds and adverse effects. One study found brain hemorrhages in mouse fetuses exposed to pulsed ultrasound at doses similar to those used on human babies. Another study found that adult mice who were exposed to doses similar to ultrasound had a 22 percent reduction in the rate of cell division. These mice also experienced twice the rate of cell death in small intestine. Ultrasound at diagnostic levels has been shown to produce lung damage and focal haemorrhage in a number of mammalian species.

OK, what about humans?

A new study out of the University of Washington found a correlation with autistic boys who had ultrasound scans in the first trimester and the severity of their symptoms.

Other studies (from the 90’s, when the ultrasounds were 7 times weaker) showed increased risk of miscarriage or preterm birth. One study included over 9,000 pregnant women in two groups, one which received a routine ultrasound at 16-20 weeks and one group who didn’t. In the group who received an ultrasound at 16-20 weeks, there were 16 fetal death after the 16-20 week period while there were none in the group who did not receive ultrasounds.

A UK study found that healthy mothers and babies who received two or more doppler scans to check the placenta had more than 2 times the risk of perinatal death compared to babies unexposed to doppler.

Additionally, new studies from China point to ultrasounds carrying risks including Autism, ADHD, genetic damage, jaundice, childhood cancers, and allergies. Because we know that increases in maternal temperature can cause birth defects it makes sense that if ultrasound raises the mother’s body temperature, even locally, that baby may suffer from birth defects.

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Fact: Baby ultrasounds do not improve outcomes

If ultrasounds were able to improve the outcome of babies then the potential risk may be less significant, but studies don’t show any improvement in fetal outcomes when diagnostic ultrasounds are used.

One review of studies found that ultrasound does not improve neonatal outcomes when ultrasound is used for dating, second trimester organ scan, biophysical profile, and amniotic fluid assessment in high and low risk pregnancies.

Another review found that there was no improvement in the APGAR score of babies when ultrasounds were used. This review also found that there were no more live, healthy births in the ultrasound group than the control group.

False positives are significant in routine ultrasound scans. Such false positives can create stress in moms (which is not good for the baby) and additional ultrasounds that may interfere with parents bonding with their unborn child.

Ultrasounds have not been shown to improve infant outcomes but may be increasing the rate of interventions used in pregnancies. One study found that knowledge of estimated fetal weight independently increased a woman’s risk of having a c-section, yet fetal outcomes were not improved. That means OBs may be choosing to go ahead with c-sections based on fetal size alone, even when everything else is perfectly normal.

Why a 8-12 week ultrasound usually isn’t necessary

Some doctors will do an ultrasound at your first appointment to confirm the pregnancy. My recommendation is to skip that one. You can just as easily confirm with an over-the-counter pregnancy test or a blood test; these are safer options and just as accurate.

Some practitioners believe that an early ultrasound is the best way to get an accurate due date, and some studies back this up. However, other studies say that last menstrual period is just as accurate as dating by ultrasound. And going by the last menstrual period is, of course, risk free.

Take into account if you have regular periods or how sure you are of the conception date. If you have irregular periods, determining an accurate due date may be helpful if your care provider has a hard deadline for when induction of labor needs to occur. This way you can be absolutely sure that if you go past your due date you truly are 41 or 42 weeks based on the dating ultrasound.

However if your periods are regular and/or your care provider is comfortable with gestation being long, a dating ultrasound may not be worthwhile.

The Truth About Baby Ultrasound Dangers Risk Reward by Mama Natural

What they look for in a 20 week ultrasound

A 20-week ultrasound, or anatomy scan, checks for a number of things.

The sonographer will look at and measure baby’s body parts to make sure they look normal and measure the right size. He will examine baby’s head, face, spine, abdomen, stomach, kidneys and limbs. If baby is more than 10-14 days bigger or smaller than expected you may get a revised due date (but remember, due dates are just guidelines!).

He will also look at the placenta to check for a low lying placenta which could mean placenta praaevia. But, as we discussed earlier, a low lying placenta typically moves to a more favorable position by the end of a pregnancy.

Ultrasounds are also starting to routinely examine the insertion of the umbilical cord into the placenta and the blood flow through the placenta and umbilical cord. The shape of the placenta, including the presence of any extra lobes, may also be documented.

Of course, at the 20 week ultrasound, the sonographer can usually discover the sex of your baby.

Avoid 3-D, 4-D ultrasounds!

Even the FDA warns against getting the 3-D or 4-D type ultrasounds. In their report, they state that “Ultrasounds can heat tissues and in some cases, produce very small bubbles or cavitation in some tissues.” The FDA only recommends using ultrasounds for medical use by a trained medical professional.

While moms love to see a more detailed picture of baby’s face in utero, the intensity of this ultrasound could be quite dangerous! There is just not enough data on this exposure to make it worth the risk, IMHO.

Furthermore, these types of scans are usually NOT preformed by a Registered Sonographer. There is an art to scanning, and a sonographer will control the length and intensity of the ultrasound, being much more knowledgable about this technology.

3D ultrasound of baby in mother’s womb.

Side note: Resist the urge to buy a hand-held fetal monitor or doppler for home use since most moms are not trained to use this device.

How to reduce your baby’s ultrasound exposure

Ok, so we know that ultrasounds don’t necessarily improve baby or maternal outcome but you still want one (I get it!). Here are some tips to help you lessen your baby’s ultrasound exposure:

  • After you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time around 12 weeks with Doppler, don’t check again until 18 or 20 weeks when your practitioner can use a fetoscope. Or better yet, skip the Doppler altogether and just wait to hear your baby’s glorious heartbeat through the fetoscope in second trimester. (Brownie points for patience!)
  • Only get one ultrasound during your pregnancy. And instead of getting your anatomy scan at 18-20 weeks, ask if you can wait till 22-23 weeks. At that time, baby is bigger and your sonographer will be able to see everything he/she needs. I know many moms who have to get a follow up scan because the baby wasn’t big enough for certain measurements at 18-20 weeks.
  • Ask the sonographer not to use doppler ultrasound, which gives a continuous pulse of ultrasound waves. Doppler is used to check the umbilical cord but you can forgo this assessment to reduce baby’s exposure to ultrasound waves.
  • Ask the sonographer to get in and out. Some will want to stop, be extra chatty, and take lots of pictures to give you as souvenirs. Politely ask that she forgo these things and just get right to checking anatomy and getting measurements. Also consider seeing an experienced sonographer who can efficiently collect all of the necessary information. This can reduce your baby’s exposure by 15 to 20 minutes!
  • Practice your prenatal exercises regularly to ensure your baby’s position is most ideal for birth. Practitioners may want to do ultrasounds in final weeks of pregnancy if they think baby is breech or posterior. And don’t forget, ultrasounds can be nearly two pounds off when predicting fetal size, so utilizing ultrasounds as a tool for checking if the baby is too big is not evidence based.
  • Avoid 3-D and 4-D ultrasound shops. Don’t purchase a fetal monitor or doppler for home use.

The “Middle Way” with baby ultrasounds (aka what I did)

I was really torn with my first pregnancy, since I knew some of the risks. I decided to go ahead with only a mid-pregnancy scan and kept it to a minimum.

With my second pregnancy, I also had a single scan at 22 weeks, and the sonographer was in and out in less than 15 minutes!

I did use the Doppler with each baby just to verify the heartbeat early on in pregnancy. Once I heard it, I didn’t use again and just waited to use the fetoscope around 20 weeks.

Interesting to note, both of my children hid from the doppler. It took awhile to hear a heartbeat for either of my babies because my midwife had to keep “chasing” them with the instrument. I think instinctively my babies knew to stay away!

If I knew what I know now, I would choose to not get ultrasounds and/or dopplers since the science shows that they do not improve baby or mother health outcome. We also just don’t know enough about the side effects and risks.

Having said that, I did know a mom friend who discovered that her son had only one kidney in her 20 week ultrasound and was able to get him the best medical care right after birth… so I can definitely see how they can be helpful in some instances.

The middle way may be to get just a single ultrasound mid-pregnancy, and leave it at that.

Here’s what other natural mamas did about baby ultrasounds during pregnancy

I asked the moms on my Facebook page what they did about ultrasounds during pregnancy. Here are some of their responses.

  • We only had the anatomy scan with our second baby. We planned a homebirth and wanted to make sure the baby didn’t have any issues that would require immediate medical attention (wanted to be sure the homebirth was a safe option for the baby). That’s the only one we had with him…we didn’t want any others since they weren’t necessary, so why do it? With our first, I had horrible cramping, so I had one at 7 weeks to rule out an ectopic, and we had the anatomy scan as well to rule out anything that would risk us out of a homebirth. Lisa K
  • I did not want anything that wasn’t medically necessary. With our first we didn’t have any. With our second I had one two days before he was born because I thought he had flipped to breech. With our third we had one when we found out our baby no longer had a heartbeat at 17 weeks. If there is a medical reason to get one in a future pregnancy then I have not problem having one but I still want to limit the number I receive. Lacie D.
  • We didn’t get any. There wasn’t anything it could tell us that we were interested in knowing (we didn’t want to know the sex, the midwife palpitated position, I had charted my ovulation, no family history of genetic disorders or other problems). Since we didn’t need one, it seemed silly to pay for and go through one just for the heck of it knowing there are risks, albeit extremely small. Roxanne B.
  • I think it’s important to have at least one ultrasound. There are some conditions that can be seen during the diagnostic scans and if my baby had a condition that would need attention after birth I would want to know about it so I could research and prepare myself for it. Beth T.
  • With my 1st one we did when I was 8 months along bc midwife thought we were having twins. Turned out she was just situated funny, head down with her kicking my ribs, w/ my second one we didn’t not sure why. With my 3rd we got one when I ended up in the emergency room with placenta previa, and with fourth one we did to make sure placenta was in a good spot. The first two I did water births at home, third baby by c-section, and 4th in hospital VBAC w/ epidural. Crystal CS.
  • Out of 5 children only 1 ultrasound with my first. Not worth all the unknown risks for the high rate of inaccurate information and the possible cascade of further interventions based on that incorrect information. It creates doubt, which is not empowering. Patricia V.
  • With our first, we got a bunch. We thought it was fun to get to see him, and (being typical first timers) we figured it would help alert us to any potential problems. The next time around, we had 3 (10 weeks, 20 weeks, and 38 weeks) because all of the extras seemed like overkill. The 3rd time, after 2 unnecessary c-sections with unsupportive care providers and pressure because the ultrasounds showed big babies, I told my new OB that he got to do 1 around 20 weeks. I didn’t care how big the ultrasound said the baby was going to be; I wasn’t going to change my plans to have a VBA2C because of a size guess that’s notoriously inaccurate. Elizabeth P.
  • As a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer here is my opinion. Ultrasound has been proven in clinical studies to be safe and effective in diagnosing medical issues in pregnancy and directly related to the fetus. There are plenty of studies that prove this. Some of the studies I have read that steer away from diagnostic ultrasounds have not had a clear basis and seem a bit fear based. However, with that being said, I don’t see a reason in fun ultrasounds or ultrasounds not done by registered sonographers. Our machines have safety settings that only a person with a well radiology based education can understand Like that of minimizing dose with ALARA, minimizing use of things like power Doppler or other unnecessary higher energies. If you go somewhere who performs for fun 3d imaging or gender fun checks, most likely you aren’t getting someone who has a bachelors degree or higher education in sonography and radiology. We find medical conditions every day by ultrasound that could potentially save you or your baby’s life. Or things like heart defects which when baby is born could then have a cardiac team waiting for him as soon as he is born. We also don’t just focus on the fetus but also look at things like the cervix, placenta, uterus and fluid. There are literally thousands of diagnostic things we can exclude or find and refer patients to the best plan given any abnormal findings. Maybe instead of asking whether to have an ultrasound we should start asking who is performing the ultrasound and what is the purpose? That way we only have the most qualified performing them as necessary. – Jessica S.
  • We avoided them like the plague over over exposure worries. The Chinese have done research on fetal ultrasound exposure and it is alarming. – Shane L.
  • I had 2-3 with my first pregnancy. 1 with my second-20 week scan. Even if my midwife had been ok with more, I would have declined. 1 max is our choice. Camille E.

Conclusion on baby ultrasounds

After looking more closely into the ultrasound research, I wouldn’t have gotten any ultrasound or Doppler with either of my pregnancies. (Sorry kiddos!)

I am glad that I only got a single ultrasound with each of my babies to keep their exposure at a minimum. And, to moms facing intense pressure to get ultrasounds (whether internal or external), I’d recommend going ahead but keeping exposure at an extreme minimum.

Yes, there are cases where an ultrasound may be the right choice, but the science points to routine ultrasounds not being beneficial to a healthy pregnancy. Ultimately, you have to decide what’s right for your family and whether the benefits outweigh the risks in your case.

How about you?

Did you have an ultrasound? Why or why not?

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 130,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.


  1. On pregnancy #3 and just had my first ever thorough anatomy scan. Had one with my first, but the technology and or baby position was poor so I didn’t get much feedback from it. (Just a blurry picture, no cute profile photos or gender reveal!)

    I got the joy of knowing the gender, but was also disappointed by some parts.

    They said I have a low lying placenta. I’m at 21 weeks and it will likely resolve on its own (90% of the time it does according to my research).

    However, they are saying I HAVE TO get it cleared to have a birth center birth. Otherwise a hospital birth unless I do it alone at home.

    What bothers me is with my last birth center pregnancy when I had zero ultrasounds, I was given the go ahead to give birth at the birth center with no knowledge of where my placenta was.

    Now that I got an ultrasound this time it’s like I opened pandora’s box. They said come back for a second ultrasound at week 28 or around week 32 if I don’t want to risk needing a THIRD ultrasound.

    I’ll likely try the week 28 one because I want the peace of mind early on that I CAN still have a birth center birth.

    I’ll also just decline any extra time for growth checks (thank goodness this is an option, no thanks on another detailed scan!!)

    This time around I thought one ultrasound would be fun (never knew the genders the first two times) and thought I’d the baby had any issues requiring extra care after birth it would be good to know.

    However, after this low lying placenta issue and being pushed into more ultrasounds makes me wary about getting an ultrasound in future pregnancies.

    Just sharing my story as I didn’t realize an ultrasound could make or break my eligibility at a birth center!!

  2. We are using a Birth Center and recently opted to have as natural as pregnancy/birth as possible. We declined the use of the Doppler. However, at our most recent appointment, we were told that using the Doppler during delivery is a “non-negotiable”. Thoughts?

  3. With my first pregnancy, we didn’t want to find out the sex, so that wasn’t a motivating factor FOR having an ultrasound. I am not entirely against them, but I do agree that there are a lot of routine practices during pregnancy etc that aren’t particularly helpful for most healthy and low-risk women. Everything in my pregnancy progressed as it should and I felt really great. My intuition and the measurements/tests by my midwife never alerted us to any complications or issues, so we just didn’t get any ultrasounds. We didn’t use the Doppler until labor when it was briefly used after every second push.
    With my second pregnancy, I suspected miscarriage at 11 weeks plus some days because of a sharp pain I got in my side followed by spotting. We had an TV ultrasound the next day to confirm, and baby had only grown to 6 weeks size. I wouldn’t trade the 5 weeks of loving on my baby even if their heart may not have been beating. Interestingly, around the 5-6 week point, I had a dream that I interpreted as the pregnancy not going full-term, but that another healthy pregnancy would follow.
    So far that’s been my experience with this 3 pregnancy! At this point, we’ve had no ultrasounds and will call next month when I’m 15 weeks pregnant to schedule our first midwife appointment.
    If all progresses as it should, I don’t see us getting any ultrasounds. But if our midwife suspects multiples, I think I would like to wait as long as possible to have an ultrasound for confirmation if it were at all necessary. But I imagine our midwife would likely be able to determine this the further along I got. If that were the case, possibly one ultrasound near the end of pregnancy, but ideally none unless my intuition or something else alerted to its necessity.

  4. I am grateful for the research includes but I likewise strongly urge you to edit this article to include SOME consideration of previous losses and more than a brief nod to prenatal defects. This is an enormous void. Not everyone who loves natural living has perfectly healthy pregnancies and children, and we are being completely left out of these equations.

  5. While I appreciate the concern in this article, I have to share my own story…
    We got pregnant and immediately agreed this would be a low-to-no ultrasound pregnancy. (We’re crunchy granola people who like to stay far away from medical intervention)
    5 days after my BFP, I was having serious pain, and given some past medical history we went to get a transvaginal scan done to rule out an Ectopic pregnancy. This could have saved my life, if it truly were ectopic.
    3 weeks later, we needed some reassurance that everything was ok, so we got the 8 week scan and saw a beautiful little bean and a healthy heart rate.
    4 weeks after that I had a massive bleed and a clot that we thought was pending miscarriage. Absolutely horrifying and terrifying. We grieved our way to the Doctors to make sure I was miscarrying properly/check if I need a D&E…

    At the ultrasound we found a BOUNCING BABY, with a healthy heart rate, and a diagnosis of a Low Lying Placenta.

    If it weren’t for ultrasound – the very thing we want so desperately to avoid – we wouldn’t know that (a) Our baby is, in fact, alive, and (b) I need to be on bed rest for 3 weeks to encourage my placenta to stay put and grow upwards.

    I wish so much that I didn’t have to have 3 ultrasounds in 13 weeks, but 2 of them were absolutely neccessary. I guess we could have gone without the 8 week, but how were we to know I’d bleed so bad?
    This article has truth to it, but it forgets that sometimes women NEED the ultrasound even if they don’t WANT it.
    For the future, please don’t chastise women, or make them feel like baby harmers, if they have to get a scan. Sometimes we cannot control these situations. Kind of a live-free-or-die thing, and in this case I’d like both myself and my baby to LIVE.

  6. Have avoided ultrasounds and dopplers to check heart rate. However, had very brief first scan, estimated due date, to check it wasn’t ectopic and sonographer was very quick to confirm we had a viable pregnancy. Tired of being deemed high risk because I’m 32, and every appointment with the NHS has been met with persecution, except the lady who administers the Anti D. Although I refused, she agreed she would not want the routine anti D either. She even bought the book I told her I was reading by Dr Sara Wickham. She cares about her patients.

    So I agreed to have a placenta check at 32 weeks, as desire a home birth, and sadly they have to use the doppler. Placenta was fine, blood flow good, yet baby’s heart rate (when I asked) was 170. This is their highest rate ever, as normally always within the 132-152 range, so it is evident that these ultrasound machines cause distress to babies.

    Birth of a new earth has some great information on the dangers of ultrasound, as is Robert S Mendelsohns book how to raise a healthy child in spite of your doctor.

    Always do your own research during pregnancy, as the ultrasound industry is a billion dollar one.

  7. Hi,
    What are the opinions on transvaginal ultrasound scans? I’m going for my first scan next week and I’m worried they may ask me to do that method rather than the other, I’d rather avoid it as it’s pretty invasive but just wanted to know if anyone is aware that there is more risk doing the tsv scan rather than the usual abdominal scan.

  8. I think you’re missing the general point here. Whole ultrasonographic technology *may* prove a useful tool to have in instances of “high risk pregnancies” (though what that term even means I’ll save for a later discussion) in the vast majority of cases they are unnecessary and have the potential to cause more harm than good. This is especially true for women who are low risk, who seem to be getting just as many ultrasounds as your high risk clientele.

  9. I just found out they will FORCE the ultrasounds on you if you are high risk in my state of Washington. In order to get care as a high risk patient (either over 40 or with GD) I am being told I need to do weekly ultrasounds and weekly NSTs from week 32 to week 40. Then they will FORCE induction on me at week 40.

    My only other option is to have no prenatal care at all from week 32 on and just walk into a hospital when I go into labor. The high risk OBs simply say no to me as a patient and won’t treat me at all unless I agree to do the ultrasounds and NSTs. I tried to get them to agree to ultrasounds every other week and they said no.

    I’m beyond frustrated and sad.

    • Hello! I just had a “high risk pregnancy” in Washington with twins and gestational diabetes but I went through a midwife and was able to give birth at home. I was concerned about ultrasounds and discussed this with my midwife and that was over halfway through the pregnancy when I had already had two ultrasounds and we agreed on one last one for anatomy/positioning. I had gotten afraid and avoided care for a while so I put off the anatomy scan until the end of pregnancy.

      I’m not sure where you are located but I went through Natural Beginnings midwifery located in Tacoma. I lived in Silverdale at the time and they were ok with traveling to me when I was ready to give birth.

    • I’m so sorry that these teams are not empowering you in your decisions during pregnancy and are bullying you. I have faced the same, deemed high risk because I’m 42, and you know what. Even though their responses to me sadden me it also determines me to fight for my unborn child, because it sure is an evil dog eat dog world we are bringing them into, and if I don’t stick up for them now, while in the womb, who will. The medical establishment has many workers who will never stand up for the wonders and awe of THE FEMALE BODY and its ability to not only conceive, but also to birth that child.

      Don’t let them force you to do anything. If you want to avoid the ultrasounds, you have that right.

      I’ve been bullied all of my life, and I am tired of it. Start a blog. Write of your experience. Trust God. If he can give a ninety year old woman a child in Isaac, son of Abraham, then why can’t our bodies undergo that natural Labour?

  10. It’s very hard to decline these. I am with a midwife at a birth center and even then there is no acknowledgment ultrasounds and dopplers can be harmful.

    *I did IVF, so I had to have an ultrasound at week 7 1/2 or I would have burned my bridge with that clinic. Otherwise I would have waited until 12 weeks.

    *At my first hospital midwife appointment she pushed me up on the table and said “This is what we’re doing” after I asked questions about the ultrasound. I found a new midwife after this. I don’t need someone forcing me into things! I would have declined this.

    *I was in the ER three times for kidney stones, and the first two times they insisted on ultrasounds to rule out the baby causing me the abdominal pain. The third visit they agreed not to do one. I had to choice but to get these.

    *My own midwife pressured me into the doppler at 17 1/2 weeks, and she checked the baby’s heartbeat twice and held it there for a long time. I think she did that for my benefit, so I could hear clearly and get excited. She said the baby kept hiding. I was relieved that with all I’d been through the baby’s heartbeat was strong, but it could have been doing more quickly. And I wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t pressured me.

    *I will be doing a 21.5 week ultrasound because I am 50+ (but used a donor egg), I have kidney stones (took pain meds), and I have hyperemesis gravardian (HG). I need to know that with all we’ve been through all is okay with baby and me! But I will ask them to do it in 15 minutes.

    If I had my way I would have done only a few of these! You live and learn to be stronger.

  11. After having a MMC before this pregnancy, an ultrasound between my 12th and 20th was very important to me, I figured my anxiety and stress wouldn’t be good for the baby either so I booked one in one of those private facilities and was in and out within 10 min. And originally planned to go back at some point after my 20th for reassurance once again. But after reading this I am definitely not going to have one after my 20 week scan unless the doctor recommends that it is necessary. I will have the 20 week scan because as you said it does allow for preparation at delivery in the case they notice anything concerning.

  12. I could have died at birth because my umbilical cord came out with my twin sister’s. We separated late so we were in the same sack, and our cords had gotten wrapped around each others. She was born first, so my cord started shutting down while I was still inside. Thankfully the doctor noticed and literally pulled me out in less than four minutes. The ultrasounds at the time did not catch this problem, but modern ones could have. They would have done a C-section, which isn’t ideal, but at least you’ll get both babies.
    To each his own. You have to do what’s best for your family. But there are life saving benefits to ultrasounds, especially in cases that involve multiples.

    • But it sounds like you did get both babies, so… not sure how this is in favor of ultrasounds?

  13. While this is all good information, I think it ignores one very significant factor in choosing to get an ultrasound: having had a previous loss (or losses). I had a missed miscarriage with my first pregnancy that was discovered at my 9 week ultrasound, followed by a chemical pregnancy. When we got pregnant again, my anxiety was extremely high (which we all know also isn’t good for baby). It wasn’t until we saw the baby’s heartbeat at 7 weeks, and then again at 10 weeks, that I was able to relax and begin to enjoy my pregnancy. I agree that this should be an individual choice made after discussing the risks and benefits with your doctor or midwife. However, I felt this analysis was a bit one-sided and almost verged on fear-mongering. Having an ultrasound can be an extremely reassuring event for an expectant mother, especially when there are no known risks to having one.

    • I totally agree! I was a mess after two losses and especially a MMC or blighted ovum. Once you get the positive pregnancy all you want to know is that there’s a heartbeat.

  14. I had a miscarriage previously and have also been diagnosed with a bicornuate uterus so the ultrasound was definitely medically necessary. However, even if I didn’t have those medical reasons for an ultrasound I still would have gotten one.
    Whether or not to get an ultrasound is totally up to you but I feel it may put new moms or anxious moms at ease being able to see their baby and know they are right on track for growth and health.

    • I have a Bicornulate uterus too I bled throughout my pregnancy but it wasn’t like a period I could be eating or shopping and I’d feel a woosh of blood so seeing my baby on an ultrasound kept me semi sain I wish I didn’t get so many but I also don’t think I could have coped not having an ultrasound after each bleed

  15. Yes!! I am RDMS and RVT and I totally 100% agree with you!!

  16. What about for monitoring subchorionic hematoma (SCH)? You still wouldn’t recommend US? My midwife recommends i do monthly US to monitor the hematoma and baby’s growth, until the hematoma resolves. From other women diagnosed with SCH, they all had monthly scans. But didn’t see any comments on here.

    • Ultrasound can monitor the SCH but there is no treatment for SCH so by not getting the ultrasound you are not missing out on a treatment that would have improved your odds. That is why ultrasound doesn’t improve outcomes, there is little to no treatment available for placental or fetal abnormalities

      • Patients diagnosed with a SCH are often put on various restrictions such as no exercise or heavy lifting, refraining from some or any sexual activity, or even bed rest until the hemorrhage resolves, depending on the size and other circumstances. So there are treatment measures taken if a SCH is diagnosed to prevent a miscarriage, which is why ultrasound is necessary for monitoring this.

        • In that case I would do the precautionary measures just to be on the safe side. You can do them, whether receiving an ultrasound or not.

  17. What about getting diagnosed with a SCH (subchorionic hematoma)? I just had an US at 7 weeks due to bleeding and they found a large hematoma. So my midwife recommends doing monthly scans to monitor it and baby growth until hematoma resolves. So you still would not recommend US for SCH? I didn’t see any comments about this.

  18. What about twin pregnancies? Previously to this pregnancy, I’ve had 3 home births with only 20 week ultrasounds. However this time, with twins I risk out of home birth and common practice for twins is to have an ultrasound at every single visit. They want to confirm that they’re hearing both heart beats as well as check cervical length at each visit. (In addition to all the other typical things at the anatomy scan)
    Any thoughts on how to reduce risk?

    • I was unaware of the risk with my previous pregnancies. When we found out we were having twins we saw an OB group and midwife. We got lots of ultrasounds to check twins…hearts, growth, placentas, etc. It was so fun seeing them!!! It gave me peace of mind knowing they were healthy and in a good position to deliver safely. We ended up delivering 2 big, healthy babies at home 5 days over their due date. I understand the potential risks now, so would opt for less ultrasounds in future. But I still think the technology can be useful.

  19. I agree with being cautious. Babies are so precious and of course we want to protect them. However, I dont think its a good idea to bring up not getting an ultrasound at all. My daughter had anencephaly, a fatal neural tube defect, diagnosed at my 19 week ultrasound. I can’t imagine going into labor not knowing that she was going to be born without the top of her skull and would die in my arms. Saying you didn’t get an ultrasound and it worked out, is like saying your kid can eat peanuts and is fine. Its not fine for everyone and most won’t know until the anatomy scan. Be cautious but also make sure your baby is developing correctly.

    • Thanks for sharing. This happened for my friend as well. Because So many births are normal and pregnancy already comes with so many stresses, so I feel like many people minimize the risks that are possible, albeit rare. I think this article could have gone a bit more into stories like your own where the ultrasound did, in fact, change the birth outcome. To not discuss this is a bit Pollyanna for me. I am grateful that my friend was able to get a D and C and work on grieving rather than spend another few months carrying a difficult pregnancy to have such a heartbreaking outcome. I think it’s so important to recognize the risks, and to also not let stress and paranoia take over. It’s possible to do both. I’m planning on one quick ultrasound around 22 weeks.

  20. Genevieve/Mama Natural or anyone else…
    I’ve read through almost every comment in this thread and understand that if you’re considered low-risk, 1 ultrasound (anatomy scan) at 20-22wks is fairly common. Do you have any advice on having a Level 1 vs. Level 2 scan done? My mid-wife suggested a Level 1 mainly because while having a Level 2 is more in depth, it can also “open a can of worms”.
    A quick background, I’m 36 years old and 17wks, the genetics testing came back low-risk and I have heard the heartbeat on two previous occasions. (Yay!) I did have a miscarriage last Jan 2020 at 8wks due to a chromosome abnormality that was discovered at an 11wk ultrasound which was part of the genetics testing back then but no longer offered at my practice as part of that test. My upcoming 20wk anatomy scan will be my first.
    Thank you for any insight that can be provided!!

  21. Hey claudia same situation going with me but cause is different placenta issue, placenta not providing sufficient blood to baby and they want to check me every week 2 non stress test and twice a week ultrasound iam also worried about my baby health. Is it effect mental or physical health of my baby? Can you contact me through email 🙁

  22. I’m pregnant with my third baby and decided I was not going to have any ultrasounds in this pregnancy but I was pressured into having the 12 week scan by the hospital. I was scanned by a hospital sonographer and there was also a trainee/junior sonographer present. The scan was carried out which took about 5-10 minutes and I was asked if the trainee sonographer could take a look. The lead sonographer left the room and the trainee sonographer almost used me as test subject to attempt to carry out another scan. The scan lasted for approximately half an hour. I didn’t have too much knowledge about the potentially harmful effects of ultrasounds and after going home I read up on lots of information and studies highlighting risks and now am genuinely concerned about the well being of my growing child.

  23. I wish I had found this article when I was pregnant with my first.
    I had 5 ultrasounds before week 13. And then 3 more after that.
    My doctor did a bedside one probably from the 90’s to confirm pregnancy (she was on there for probably less than a minute) a dating scan, then I had bleeding around 8 weeks so had two then and then the 12 week.
    Thank God my 4 year old is super healthy and smart with zero issues but still worries me.
    This article I agree with but it’s also scared me lol.

  24. Because I had my first at a birthing center that was affiliated with a hospital, I was forced to have a 20 week ultrasound. The physician had to lie on the reason so insurance would cover it because they don’t cover routine ultrasounds because ACOG says only when medically necessary. What a joke. I had my next 3 at home to avoid this and other frustrating hospital policies.

  25. I am a sonography student. Doppler is NOT used on pregnancies! Instead we use something called M-Mode which stands for Motion-Mode and uses less sound intensity than Doppler. We use M-Mode to evaluate the baby’s heartbeat and make sure the baby is alive. We don’t stay over one part of the baby for very long so that exposure is As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA). There IS tissue heating with ultrasound, and while there is no known negative effect of it, all exposure is taken seriously and done as low as reasonably achievable.
    Ultrasounds ARE useful for discovering ectopic pregnancies, genetic conditions (like trisomy 13, 18 and 21), congenital conditions, conjoined twins, placenta previa, placental degradation, cord insertion, making sure the intestines aren’t bulging out, the baby doesn’t have half a head, and that everything from head to toe is the right size among many many other things. 80% of miscarriages happen in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. If you are 35-39 you have an increased miscarriage risk of 75%, and if you are 40+ you have 5 times the risk. Your body does become less capable as it ages. You also might have fibroids in your uterus which would make a pregnancy difficult.
    Please get at least one ultrasound, as people have attested in the comments, it could save your baby’s life.

    • We can also use ultrasound to check if you have an incompetent cervix, which is a common cause of miscarriage.

    • Also, the placenta does not actually move during pregnancy. It is rooted to the uterine wall by blood vessels, so if it’s close too or on top of the cervix, it’s going to be a problem. It may appear to move depending on the view.

  26. I get ultrasound often because I am high risk. I feel comfortable with it because I 1). Want to make sure my baby stays in to full term. I had preterm labor and delivery with my first son and I only did two ultrasound with him. My second son was to check cervix and now with gestational diabetes to keep an eye on his fluids. Which is important. I want to ensure I am keeping a close on on things that could be helped from going into premature labor again. I feel safe with ultrasounds they don’t bother me. They don’t scare me. They wouldn’t use them if they were so harmful to babies.

  27. “Only get one ultrasound during your pregnancy. And instead of getting your anatomy scan at 18-20 weeks, ask if you can wait till 22-23 weeks. At that time, baby is bigger and your sonographer will be able to see everything he/she needs. I know many moms who have to get a follow up scan because the baby wasn’t big enough for certain measurements at 18-20 weeks.”

    My midwife just told me the opposite when I asked if I could delay the anatomy scan a couple weeks – she said after 20 weeks baby can be too big for them to see/measure certain things =/

  28. We didn’t want any interventions, including ultrasounds. Fortunately, our midwife strongly suggested the anatomy scan at 20wks. We both had a gut feeling that we needed to do it to make sure a birth center was the right place for us. We’re so glad we did. It turned out our baby had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, which could have put him at risk for death at birth if not born in a highly specialized hospital with a Level IV NICU and a team of CDH specialists (only a few hospitals in the country are knowledgeable enough about this condition). So, as much as we wanted a intervention free pregnancy, we had to leave our birth center and the ultrasounds kept our doctors informed about our baby’s health until the very end. Ultimately, I do believe they improved our baby’s outcome because I was able to press them to carry him full term and minimize all other interventions at birth to have the most natural birth I could manage under the circumstances. Our baby did really well, had surgery at 4 days old and is the happiest and healthiest little tot around. Without that anatomy scan, I could be telling a very different story. The anatomy ultrasound saved my baby’s life! Now, with my second pregnancy, the anatomy ultrasound is a MUST!

  29. Okay i understand the need to lower exposure to dopplers and ultrasound but what about if you are a high risk prego? Doctors would tend to want to expose you more to these machines. And how exactly do u kno if the technician is well experienced in this field. What questions can youask? How do u know? Its not so upfront to me in my neck of the woods. And being that i have medicaid i dont think they would give me the best option. Its very stressful just thinking about it.

  30. I’m 28 weeks and just refused the Doppler and was given such a hard time at Kaiser. Is the Doppler really necessary?

    • Hi, I am a sonography student. Doppler is NOT used on pregnancies! Instead we use something called M-Mode which stands for Motion-Mode and uses less sound intensity than Doppler. We use M-Mode to evaluate the baby’s heartbeat and make sure the baby is alive. It would also show us if the babies heart beat is the correct beats per minute, or if it’s too fast or slow, which is a problem. We can also see if the baby has a congental heart defect. We don’t keep our sound beam over one part of the baby for very long so that exposure is As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA).
      I hope this helps 🙂

      • Hi Leah, I appreciate what you’re saying about your program, but actually some practices still do use Doppler. For example my doctor used the Doppler on me in my pregnancy. So you might think that everyone does it the way you do, but that is not the case.

      • Hi Leah I was actually in the ER at 5/6 weeks pregnant and they used a doppler on me and I am furious, I see it was used because they said transvaginal gray scale sonography of the pelvis was performed and color doppler vascular flow imaging was performed. How much do you think my baby was exposed to via those tests?

        • Hi, sonographer here. Color doppler and pulsed wave doppler are not the same.
          PW is what is more powerful and according to AIUM, American institute of ultrasound in medicine, it is not considered advisable to perform PW doppler on a fetus less than 10 weeks gestation. Generally M Mode is what is used to measure the heart rate. I never use PW even on 20 week anatomy scans. I’ve used it maybe 4 times at an anatomy scan in my career. Most places don’t use PW. You will be fine. There are no known risks to having ultrasounds done. Which is why we still err on the side of caution and follow ALARA (As low as reasonably achievable) which means we limit exposure just in case.

  31. I chose not to have an ultrasound with my first. I planned an out of hospital birth and all signs pointed toward a healthy baby. When he was born we found that he had a diaphragmatic hernia which is a congenital malformation and he only lived a few minutes. This condition is easily picked up at a 20 week ultrasound. If I had known, we would have planned a hospital birth with a medical team on hand and he could have lived. One anatomy scan ultrasound is worth the vague non-specific “risks”.

  32. I don’t understand. Invite having my baby here in Germany and was recommended to a great obgyn. I went to my first appt at 14 weeks and told her I didn’t want to do any ultrasounds. She was so lovely and understanding but said here in Germany an obgyn must do 3 ultrasounds During the pregnancy (last two in the last weeks of pregnancy) in order to take me on as a patient. Otherwise she said the government can sue here if something went wrong. She ended up saying she’d be happy to do only 2 for me instead of 3. And the 2nd one at 37 weeks or so just to quickly check where the placenta is.

    She explained that they never ever use a doppler and only ever a standard 2D ultrasound machine. Never 3 or 4D. That she had a lot of experience and only needed to do it for around 3 seconds just to check the baby is alive in the first one and that there was no twins. I agreed and it was literally 3 seconds the first one at 14 weeks (normally done earlier at 4weeks but I delayed the initial appt as much as possible). The only thing is she just said yep the baby has a heartbeat and is alive and looks healthy. All within 3 seconds. My partner also said he seen a heartbeat on the monitor. Blink and I would have missed it.

    I thought it’s not possible to hear a heartbeat on a regular 2D ultrasound machine? That’s why they use a Doppler? It definitely was a regular 2D ultrasound machine and not a Doppler as I’ve googled.

    If you can hear a heartbeat with a 2D ultrasound machine why are they not offering this to pregnant women instead of the Doppler. My partner and I only just move back to Germany a month before we surprisingly fell pregnant. So I could go to the doctors straight away as I had to get my insurance sorted out and find out how things work here. She said the only way to avoid any ultrasounds here in Germany is to find a special type of midwife that will do all the other tests except the ultrasound. Here in Germany you must have a muted pass book and carry it around with you at all times. I had all of your pregnancy details and they put your weight, blood pressure etc in it. Birthing hospitals etc won’t accept you unless you have this.

    Already going to my first appt at 14 weeks or was going to be too difficult to find this special time of midwife. Women here always go to the first doctor appt at 4 weeks. The obgyn does the ultrasound here and they must be trained in this. In Australia where I’m from it’s a seperate profession but I don’t think they are nearly as skilled.

    So I basically didn’t have a choice when it came to the ultrasound. I really feel that a quick 3 second 2D ultrasound by a skilled
    Professional doesn’t cause as risk or damage or damage to the Fetus.

    Really wish I could have stared at bubs all day on it though

  33. Hi! Thank you for sharing this information. I only wish I had found it sooner and applied the learnings to my own case. I am currently in the midst of suffering a missed miscarriage – my second one since April. In each of those pregnancies, I had a normal beginning and no problems at all. Then my doctor ordered ultrasounds. I had my first at 6w5d amd saw the heartbeat. 2 weeks later, they ordered a second one. It found no heartbeat and they said growth stopped at 6w5d. They chalked it up to some sort of abnormality, tild me to go home, take the drugs, amd expect to bleed out for 2 weeks. So callous and impersonal.
    I left that practice. Fast forward to this month. After having off the charts HCG and progesterone numbers, I was told I needed an ultrasound to assess viability, I guess bc I am 41 and that makes me a candidate for all sorts of trouble, despite extremely good health and impressive numbers. I went in at 6w2d and heard a strong heartbeat. Returned this past Monday, and guess what…no heartbeat and development stopped…exactly at 6w2d. I really thought that I just can’t maintain a pregnancy, despite the ease of conceiving, but after having found this article, I am willing to bet that both ultrasounds ended my babies’ short lives. The law of averages say that one miscarriage is a fluke. I get it. But two within 6 months, with the common variable of multiple ultrasounds? I think it’s highly suspect and I am so devastated with myself for allowing the doctors to bully me like that. If i can ever get pregnant again (I am petrified my window has closed), I will refuse all scans before the 24 week mark.

    • I am so sorry for your loss.

    • My heart breaks reading this. I hope you kept trying! People have babies after 41. Best of luck to you. <3

    • I’m so sorry for your loss! You can still have babies at your age, don’t give up

    • I am so sorry for your losses. Miscarriage is devastating. I lost my first around 6 or 7 weeks at the age of 39. However don’t give up. The Lord has blessed my husband and I with another pregnancy just before I turned 42, and currently at 34+5. Have avoided the ultrasounds, use pinard for heart rate, and no anti D.

      It’s not been easy to face such persecution, and I have borderline personality disorder too, so some of those appointments with the staff have been traumatising, and makes me want to go it alone.

      If you are again blessed with another pregnancy, perhaps hire your own independent midwife, if you have the monies. My hubby and I (who is a darling and so supportive) considered hiring one after my first midwife appointment was terrible, and judgemental toward me, but it’s also thousands of pounds that we don’t really have.

      I wish you well, and I hope that you heal. Just like King David knew he would see his child again, after the Lord took his child after the murder of Bethshebas husband, Uriah, I know we will see our child again because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our peace, our righteousness, our strength and he loves you dearly. John 3:16-18

  34. I appreciate this article and the information! I could see myself using it to educate my OBGYN on safer choices I may make with my second pregnancy. I did notice 3 or more typos in this article, which I always feel makes an article look less robust. I just wanted to let you know! I would love for doctors/nurses to read this article and respect the information included!

  35. I’m in Florida, and asked to wait on my first ultrasound. The practice told me they wouldn’t see me without it. I’ve spoken to a home birth midwife in the area that said she’s heard of practices actually kicking patients out of the practice because they didn’t want them. Have you heard of or experienced this?

    • I’m in Florida as well. I have called multiple clinics to enroll for care. Once I tell them that I would at least like to opt out my first scan (even though I have kept through records and know when my baby was conceived) they all tell me to leave. They say the dating and confirmation scan not is optional. The last doctor told me if I can’t trust them with something as routine as ultrasounds then I’m not welcome there. I tried to explain but the consensus was that if I was already trying to opt out and “complain” then it would be an up hill battle for them. They didn’t want a difficult patient

      • Please let me know if you did end up finding a midwife or doctor in Florida who would respect your decision to decline ultrasounds? I am in Florida and currently feel pretty much abandoned, midwives don’t want to take on a client who doesn’t want an ultrasound.

    • I live in Hawaii and am currently struggling to find a practice that will accept me. When I tell them I don’t want ultrasounds or genetic testing they automatically tell me I’m not a good fit!

  36. Hi there, i am 35 and this is my first pregnancy. I will be 13 weeks this Friday. My husband and I did some research about ultrasound. The findings make me nervous about ultrasound. I already declined 12 weeks ultrasound. And don’t want to get one for the whole pregnancy. My husband also strongly says no to ultrasound, only any complitions arises then we will accept the ultrasound. I am very healthy, so far no bleeding or nothing
    Is no ultrasound at all during pregnancy okay?
    Thank you

    • That’s really a decision you must make on your own. Work through the risks and benefits and make the decision that feels best for you and your family.

      • I am now at 24 weeks. It has been a good ride. no sicknesses or any complications. I have been eating pretty healthy and trying keep myself active. I have decided not to get any ultrasounds at all. My midwife team is good with our decision. We live in Canada, health care is free but we are not going to go fall for it. My mom had me and my sister without any ultrasounds and we are absolutely healthy. I have lots of faith in our decision. I also declined the glucose test, that drink sounds too crazy to me.

    • I had 0 ultrasounds with my first child under my midwive’s care. My husband felt very strongly against them, where I was indifferent. My midwife was totally comfortable with our decision. My boy is perfectly healthy at 2.5 yrs. Obviously it is totally up to you and it’s your decision, but I just wanted you to know that many people (including me) go through pregnancy without any ultrasounds and have perfectly healthy babies. Blessings to you and your baby 🙂

      • Oh that’s so awesome to hear ! Thank you very much Brook! I also avoid the dopplers even at my midwife appointment. Yes, we have been reading a lot of stuff lol

  37. I appreciate very much the information you have all provided in this article and in these comments… however no where did you address pregnancy loss. I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy that ended in stillbirth at 41 weeks and then just 6 months later had a silent miscarriage and D and C at 12 weeks because it wouldn’t resolve on its own. When you lose children, especially for unexplained reasons such as mine were, your body is not longer a trusted or safe place for your baby. I am in my 3rd pregnancy and have received a short ultrasound every week. However now, 14 weeks in, this article has left me feeling like I have now caused irreparable harm to my child. I already have to live with the memories of two of my children dying inside me. Perhaps I am uneducated, but it seems under reasons a mother and father and doctor may want many ultrasounds, that you should list pregnancy loss. 40 weeks of fear and stress and worry, I would think, are hardly better than a quick weekly scan to make sure your baby is alive, that you aren’t being forced to relive your nightmares once again.

    • Oh Jessie, we’re so sorry for your losses. You have to make the decisions that work for you and your family with your experiences and comfort level.

  38. With my oldest we just did an anatomy scan primarily because my husband wanted to know the gender. With our second we did a dating scan because our oldest was only 6 months old and my periods were all over the place. I’m glad we did the dating scan because if I had gone by my last cycle I would have risked out of midwifery care and been induced way too early. With my 3rd I wish we had done a dating scan because we changed my dates three times because my cycle was weird and my midwife was trying to keep me from risking out of care. We’ve had two late first trimester miscarriages so we do want to listen to the heartbeat and record it as soon as possible just in case that’s all we get. It’s also a comfort and gives me peace of mind to hear the heartbeat. I’m trying to talk my husband out of the anatomy scan this time but once again he really wants to know what the baby is ahead of time. I’m hoping to be able to talk him into a blood test instead if our insurance will cover it since it has no effect on the baby. We have had ultrasounds with our losses once to see what was happening and the baby was already gone and the other time to make sure everything had passed after my miscarriage. This time we were trying again for a rainbow and will probably skip the dating scan at least as my cycles are super regular now and we were tracking my ovulation so we are pretty sure about my dates.

  39. QUESTION…. I’m at a dilemma. I want a natural/non-medicated birth, but I’m 40 Weeks pregnant and my Midwife gave me the option to have a Non-Stress Test and Ultrasound or be induced at 41 weeks. If everything checks out good with Non-Stress Test and Ultrasound, she’ll let me wait and go to 42 Weeks for induction.

    I chose the Non-Stress Test and Ultrasound to buy baby some time to come naturally so we can have our non-medicated birth, but now I’m wondering if an induction is not as bad on the baby as an ultrasound because of the radiation? To note, this would be the 4th ultrasound because my sleepy baby wouldn’t let us get a good scan of the heart at his anatomy scan.

    • Ultrasound is the only imaging modality that does NOT use radiation.

        • Non-ionizing radiation is everywhere; if you’re using a cellphone or a microwave, you’re also receiving exposure. Although there is so much daily life exposure, “Non-ionizing radiation is not strong enough to directly affect the structure of atoms or damage DNA”. Only when the type of energy is very strong, it can heat up tissues, which has been discussed a lot in these comments as a fear about ultrasounds. But the good news is, 2D PW ultrasound technology is not strong enough to cause such risks. Technologists with bachelors degrees and board certifications also know to not use Power Doppler which has risk of high energy effects, they know how to use the ALARA principle to perform scans, and have good understanding on minimizing risks. That is why studies have shown over and over that ultrasound has not caused harm in fetuses or newborns.

  40. I am a month away from due date with my first baby and I’ve had five ultrasounds already. Not all of them were by my choice, but of necessity. Around 6/7 weeks pregnant I ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration after days of vomiting and was diagnosed with hyperemesis. The ER did an ultrasound to make sure I was pregnant and that the baby was doing well after being so sick. Second was a transvaginal ultrasound at my doctors several weeks later, followed by a full ultrasound at 22 weeks for gender and growth. At 32 weeks I had another, and my doctor was concerned there may have been brain issues-so I was recommended to a specialist a week later for a more detailed ultrasound to make sure there were no abnomalities/issues. There were none and baby is doing fine. While I didn’t enjoy having all those scans and ideally planned for just 2, I’m thankful that we were able to have the scans to make sure our baby is healthy and well.

  41. Hi, I’m expecting my first child and when I called a local birth center to schedule my 8 week she mentioned ultrasound. I told her I wanted to opt out of the 8 week ultrasound and she told me it was their way of checking vitality and dating and it wasn’t really an option to not have it. I was disappointed and unsure how to continue. Would love to know your thoughts!

    • Same happened to me. YOU always have a choice. they are just trained that it is routine. Just say no. Baby is coming either way.

      • My practice also wanted to do this as a standard procedure, but I declined. Doc “strongly recommended” doing it anyway because there was “no risk” (which this article seems to indicate may not be strictly true). This led me to choose a midwife instead, and she went along with my declination but still tried to talk me into it when i came in for my initial visit. I just said I would prefer to wait.

        In my opinion, any medical practice that tries to force you to have a procedure (especially one like this that is not universally recognized as being medically necessary) is not treating patients with respect, and you should consider a different practice. It’s a sad reality that patients often don’t feel as though they have any choice in their own care and have to simply do as they are told by their doctor. This really needs to change. Even for me, it was hard to stand firm when the midwife was trying to get me to cave in and agree to the transvaginal scan, because no one wants to feel “stupid” or like they are not doing what is best for their baby. But, I really think medicine overthinks a lot of stuff these days, my mom didn’t have any of this crap when she had babies and we are both fine.

  42. My husband and I are trying for our first baby and I am so overwhelmed with all the “dangerous” things that I’m finding that I thought were standard for a reason. I’m torn on the ultrasound, my friend found out her son had Spina Bifida through the ultra sound and with it they were able to perform fetal surgery to repair part of his spine which has tremendously improved his life. What would his life be like had she not had any ultra sound?

  43. Hi and thank you so much for this article, I’ve gotten so much information from reading your article and Chris Kressers. Where I live (in Scandinavia) we do get 2 optional ultrasounds. And after reading this I’m planning on discussing them with my gyn doctor (are they necessary and if so can she make them as quick as possible).
    I went to my gyn on monday because I had pain on the left side (I was 5 weeks 6 days). I begged if she could just do an exam without ultrasound but she did a vaginal ultrasound to make sure my pregnancy was ok and not ectopic. Everything was okay and the “baby” measured 2.8 mm and a heart beat could be seen. Now I’m hysterical (this is my first pregnancy) about what it could have done to a fetus that small with all the important organs and the brain developing in the early weeks. Have I destroyed my childs health?

    • I had a vaginal ultrasound after finding out I was pregnant at 6 weeks because I had been bleeding for 2 weeks. My baby is 10 years old now and super smart, funny and sweet. Don’t stress yourself out over things you cannot change and that probably did not cause any harm!

      • This makes me feel so much better because I just had a vaginal ultrasound at 6 weeks but I had it done in the ER and because of that I don’t feel like it was that safe. Was yours done in the ER? I too had bleeding.

  44. I just wanted to thank you for what I see as a well researched and fairly unbiased write up on this topic. I feel like you gave space to both viewpoints, and that overall this was very well written. That is NOT the norm for me to find when researching on the internet. So, thank you. Very much!!

  45. The biggest thing I was scared of was having an ectopic pregnancy or that I had had a missed miscarriage because all my symptoms were gone at 8 weeks. I’m thankful for that 8 week US so I know I have a viable pregnancy.

  46. Amanda, sweetie, please respect other women’s decisions. I’m glad your children are healthy, but you should know that not everything in the doctor’s office is safe. The FDA doesn’t test every procedure. I recommend you watch The Netflix Original The Bleeding Edge. Good luck to you and all the mamas out there!

  47. Hey love! If you could please address my comment as I believe no one else would care to ponder about my concern… I am sad and worried because I stay educated about all kinds of stuff regarding health but this one was one I was not educated on and I ended up getting a transvaginal ultrasound at my gynecologist office… I went in with concerns about my period as in to why it’s always just big clots and she (gyn) decided to tell me we are just gonna take a “look make sure everything is alright” and I thought nothing bad by it… she used that thing and i got to see my insides through the monitor live time which I’m guessing is because of the continuous pulses …. she gave me a tour “here are your Fallopian tubes , and those are your eggs… everything looks good”! The exam didn’t last long but being it that it was the higher frequency internal device I am REALLY SAD AND WORRIED that the heat damaged the cellular quality of my eggs … which could mean my whole eggs reserve is damaged forever for whenever I become pregnant I am terrified by this worry… I went in healthy and now a week and 2 days after the procedure I am feeling just cramps in my lower left abdomen area and just lower energy over all … it is very scary what they are doing treating these ultrasounds as a normal harmless procedure… if you could just reply and talk to me and maybe give me some reassurance or anything you might know …. that could help …… thank you and I appreciate your time or anyone who is able to comment… (after the procedure the doctor even told me that the menstruation thing didn’t worry her and that the test was just to see … I feel like she just sees the US as a fun tool …I really wish I had taken more of an informed approach and not just go with the flow like a sheep… think about it our eggs are tiny microscopic little organs and being exposed to that omg I’m just really scared … ?) thank you for reading and please help I need some words of encouragement!

    • Most woman have transvaginal ultrasounds and have healthy pregnancies and future babies. I’m sure everything will be just fine.

    • I have to basically state the following… Have you ever been on a flight? A flight of 5-7 hours exposes you to the same amount of x-ray radiation as a regular x-ray (due to the elevation of the plane). Your fear should then be for all those women who have exposed their ovaries to numerous flights when younger (if it was absolutely terrible, flight attendants would all be baren, and yet they are not!) and then go on to have all those numerous, seemingly healthy and well adjusted kids.

      Also, an ultrasound does not have radiation, radiation can only come from electromagnetic spectrum, of which sound is not! And radiation is only dangerous when it is ionizing, thus, sunlight, generally not dangerous, light from your indoor lamp, technically radiation, not dangerous! Once you go into the actually higher frequency part of the spectrum, that is when you start to see potential damage from extended exposure to ionized radiation!

      What this particular article does not differentiate between is the fact that yes, some high energy ultrasound CAN cause localised heating, but again, this is with higher energies (such as doppler, which I believe best practice dictates to not use during the embrionic, most sensitive stage, and generally is used VERY rarely on the fetus), and with additional the factor of TIME! Exposures to lower energy ultrasound may produce some effect if the exposure is localised (the exact same spot with no movement, which the obgyn is constantly moving…) and for extended periods (I believe the research if you were to read the original, indictates over 60 minutes).

      I think you should try to educate yourself, for sure, but read the original research, make sure the research has proper sized samples (such as at least over 100 participants), and has been peer reviewed and published in reputable publications! After all, ultrasounds have now been used for a very long time, and the majority of babies born are still healthy and with no issues!

  48. What type of ultrasound are NSTs? Are they particularly dangerous?

    They last about a half hour…

  49. You would suggest not getting an 8-12 week ultrasound? I’m sorry, but that advice just seems ridiculous. Had I not gotten a 12 weeks ultrasound I would not have know I had had a missed miscarriage 4 weeks earlier. Who knows how long my body would of allowed me to carry around dead fetal tissue, because I had another ultrasound at 13 weeks to make sure the pregnancy wasn’t viable and my body had still not began the process of miscarriage. Because of that missed miscarriage I was getting an ultrasound every week from week 6-10. And guess what? My body did it again. Miscarried with absolutely 0 symptoms. So again, who knows how long my body would have acted pregnant when I had actually miscarried.

    To reccomend to not get one seems a bit irresponsible. There was no reason to ever think I would have a missed miscarriage let alone 2, 6 months apart because I had a perfectly normal, healthy, easy pregnancy 4 years before.

    • I completely agree. I have silently miscarried and had a still birth at 41 weeks. All of these recommendations sound great in an ideal world but they add unneeded guilt to woman who have had pregnancy losses. They make it sound like we are harming our babies when anyone who has lost a child knows that you already feel like that on your own. You don’t need a bunch of lucky mothers making you feel even more worthless.

    • You would have known without an ultrasound if they couldn’t find a heartbeat at around 12 weeks. I’m sorry for your loss, but every person has the responsibility to make their own decisions here.

  50. I unfortunately had to have way more scans than I am comfortable with because I was seeing a MFM for my blood clot disorder. I have Factor V Leiden.

  51. I’m considered “old” now (AMA), so with my last baby, my midwives put me on weekly ultrasounds for baby movements and other things from 35-41 weeks. Baby did turn breech the night before one appointment around 37 weeks. (Tip: Don’t have intercourse before an appointment.) Even after I got baby to turn around again (thanks to lots of good exercises for opening the pelvis), midwife wanted to induce so it wouldn’t happen again. I said no. That was annoying because I hate being at odds with my practitioners when I’m supposed to be relaxing for impending childbirth. I was so glad to finally have baby and get out of the realm of medical scrutiny. But, I’m pregnant again, so I’ll have to do it all again. [Note: We don’t have birthing centers here, my husband doesn’t want a homebirth, and our midwives are only able to practice (out in the open) if they are associated with an OB practice, and all the ones around here are connected to a hospital. So having a natural birth in the hospital is as natural as I can get. I’ve done it six times, but it can be frustrating at times.]

  52. Im so glad I had a dating ultrasound at 7 weeks. They discovered a giant ovarian cyst. 28x27x15cm. If they hadn’t found this, I would not be getting the care I needed. I have a surgery scheduled for May 29th to remove this cyst and my baby will finally have room to grow. If I had waited for 20 weeks, they would have had to operate right away. This way, the doctors and I have had time to prepare for the surgery and discuss options.

  53. I will actually end up having quite a few ultrasounds. In my case, though, it could mean the difference between live baby and late miscarriage/born too premature. They are monitoring cervical length since I am at increased risk for incontinent cervix and there are no symptoms until it is too late. If they catch a shortening or funneling early, they can do a cerclage (stitch) and keep cervix closed until baby is big enough to greet the world. So, in my case, the ultrasounds could dramatically improve the outcome.
    I’m also getting the level 2 ultrasound in the next week or so because I am over 40. This will give us a head’s up about any concerning anatomy, We opted out of the NIPT testing as it can only give increased or decreased odds and seems to be more stressful than helpful. I know my age alone puts me at increase odds for genetic issues… and expensive test isn’t required for that knowledge. BUT, at the level 2, they can see enough to get an idea of anything we should be concerned about and we can go from there on what our next steps (if any) are to be from a diagnostic standpoint.
    HOWEVER – I can totally support if you are younger and much lower risk, opting out of whatever you choose to opt out of… For me there is enough reason to do them to make it worth it.

  54. With my first one I got about 10 because my OB just did them and I didn’t really dare to question her, although I wasn’t completely comfortable with exposure and the baby clearly wanted to hide away from the probe.
    With second one I got one so far (at 12wg) to confirm pregnancy and exclude ectopic. My OB did make a 3D picture again, although I never ask for them, but later agreed to forgo ultrasound at next appointments. Just have to make sure it includes doppler as well. I plan to get anatomy scan, too, but will follow your advice to postpone it a bit.

  55. I personally prefer routine ultrasounds for my peace of mind. I’ve had miscarriages before I even recieved my first ultrasounds and having them with this pregnancy really helps me relax.

    • Thanks for sharing, K.K. I feel that way, too, as I’m coming up to my 8 week mark and want to make sure the baby is really in there!

  56. Can you please indicate the year the article above was posted? Only the month and day appear, not the year. Thank you.

    • It was published in 2016.

  57. My daughter was in her ninth week of pregnancy when she had her first sonogram at a medical center. She was healthy and the fetus was found to be normal with a heart rate of 170. The next morning she had cramps and bleeding. The following day she was diagnosed with a miscarriage. Completely healthy until ultrasound then miscarriage. Coincidence?

    • Yes. Coincidence.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve read so many similar stories to this. It’s so sad and really hard to believe that they are *all* coincidences, especially when you see a perfectly healthy looking baby with a heartbeat miscarry within 24 hours of ultrasounds. So many similar stories. I personally would wait until at least 11 weeks so the baby is more fully formed and request that the technician make quick sweeps on the lowest possible setting, no dopper, no color flow, and only when truly necessary for medical reasons.

    • I absolutely don’t believe it was coincidental. The exact same thing happened to me – twice. And down to the day. If it were one time, then yeah, I might chalk it up to chance. But twice now, development ceased at the exact date of the scan. I find that to be highly suspect. I am so sorry for your loss. I completely understand what you are experiencing and would nevee wish that upon anyone. I now know never to accept another ultrasound in the first trimester.

      • I’m so sorry for your losses Erin.

        Also, thank you for sharing your story. You may have saved me from miscarriage. I had a first trimester ultra-sound scheduled before reading this. Of course that is canceled. I’m am unlikely to have my 20 week one as well.

  58. I appreciate your courage to present share your perspective and this information. Thank you. We need to be more (not less) self directed.

    Press on.

  59. This is bull if not for ultrasound there would be way more baby death and momma death. If not of an ultrasound my step daughter would have died along with her twin. My grandmother would have bleed to death because her low laying placenta did not correct its self. Sorry but this is so stupid there is a reason that more babies and moms survive now then 100 years ago.

    • Actually infant and maternal mortality rates are higher now than they were 30 years ago. Ultrasounds have not and do not improve this. The truth is that ultrasounds make OB’s money. So they just don’t look at the actual research or stats…

    • That’s not true. Infant and maternal mortality are the highest they’ve ever been, and US rates are similar to that of third world countries. There has been no statistically significant studies showing that ultrasounds improve birth outcomes for either mother or child. Furthermore, the FDA grandfathered the technology into approval without even bothering to assess the risks. There’s no evidence that it’s always better to have one than not.

  60. I originally didn’t want any ultrasounds after reading about the Chinese study mentioned in this post. My husband and midwife convinced me to get the anatomy scan. Boy do I regret that concession! They discovered that I have a marginal insertion of the umbilical cord – basically the umbilical cord is attached to the placenta toward the side instead of right in the middle. In the vast majority of cases, this condition has ZERO impact on birth outcome. Not only did the knowledge of this benign condition cause me stress, it also resulted in me having to have SEVERAL more ultrasounds. I asked my midwife if the ultrasounds were really necessary, and she basically told me yes – not because they would reliably tell me more about my baby’s growth and health than standard fundal measurements, heart rate checks, and movement awareness – but because I would be risked out of our birth center if i did not agree to follow the “medical protocol.” In retrospect, I wish I had never gotten the anatomy scan. I think that hospitals will use any insignificant irregularity as a way to make more money, regardless of the counterbalancing risks to the mother and baby.

    • Hi Elise,

      I just did my 18 week sono, reluctantly & first one, hoping it would be the ONLY one I had to do. Only to find out I have the same thing you have, VCI. I am now furious with myself for not listening to my instincts and forgoing the sono because now I am stressed that is was half an hour long and I need another one in 2 weeks and 1 each month after that! Now I’m afraid we’re nuking the baby. ;(

  61. I miscarried twice shortly after my ultrasounds. Ultrasounds are risk factors and even cases for miscarriages. Period.

    • Coincidence. Ultrasounds have nothing to do with it. PERIOD.

      • How can you be so sure? Is it not in the realm of the possible that in a small percentage of women/pregnancies, ultrasounds could cause miscarriage? Your confidence borders on arrogance and is insensitive in any case.

      • Wow, Cole, do you have any proof on that one. Are you 100% sure. Just the fact that it’s not even a consideration discredits you completely.

      • You can’t know that for certain.

      • Cole, I’m sorry but you don’t know that this is just coincidence. For you to be SO SURE tells me you have way too much confidence in your assumption.

      • I haven’t seen any statistically significant studies suggesting that ultrasounds have “nothing to do with it. PERIOD.” You seem terribly misinformed and your arrogance could prove dangerous if a vulnerable mother were to take your “advice” at face value.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve heard so many similar stories. I agree the comment claiming “coincidence” is misguided. Ultrasounds have the potential to heat tissue and circumstances are not always ideal, especially if the tech lacks training or expertise. TI ratios, which should remain below 1 (meaning low heating potential) are not always accurate and frequently rise above 1 during high energy modes. I’ve heard that waiting until after 11 weeks can help, since the energy is less concentrated due to the baby / heart being more fully formed than in the embryonic stage. I did mine yesterday at 10 weeks and am hoping for the best… so far so good but we only did a quick 4 minute sweep on M-mode (no doppler).

    • Diane, so did I. Down to the exact day. I wholeheartedly believe you and support your belief that they have potential for doing great harm to a tiny embryo and subsequently to us, as we have to deal with the physical snd and emotional aftermath.

      I am sorry for your losses and completely understand where you are coming from. I have learned from this and will never have another early ultrasound again

  62. I have wanted to limit ultrasounds in all my pregnancies, but unfortunately I have had issues with each that required more for monitoring. My first two I had heavy bleeding in the first trimester, so I ended up with two ultrasounds before I was even 14 weeks. With this pregnancy I had a dating one plus 2 more in the first trimester to monitor a softball sized ovarian cyst. Thankfully, they have determined that it is a corpus luteal cyst and have decided to leave it alone, yay! No more ultrasounds until 20 weeks, and then I’ll probably refuse the growth scan! We make plans, then life happens! Lol 🙂

  63. I’m a little horrified at the medical advice being dispensed on your blog.

    As a high-risk physician, there are a number of ways that ultrasound can be potentially advantageous. The studies cited here are not being fully presented or are being presented in ways that skew significantly towards scaring people about ultrasound. I get the impression that this is data being presented either naively or in bad faith. I can think of a number of my high risk patients that would be harmed by following your advice (I would include your reader with history of pregnancy with twin to twin transfusion).

    Here’s my non-medical advice recommendation. Discuss your concerns with your physician open and honestly. If your physician isn’t taking you seriously, find a new doc. A doctor that can’t discuss ultrasound with you because they are too busy or not knowledgable is also going to have difficulty discussing common pregnancy complications such as fetal anomaly, short cervix, or intrauterine growth restriction.

    • I miscarried two times 1 to two days after each of my pregnancies. That is the most horrifying. Are you scoping this website because a patient had a concern such as this? Will doctors start practicing medicine in such a way which they don’t worry about being sued!

    • Thank You a voice of reason.

    • Say it louder for the people in the back, Doc.

    • I think you’re missing the general point here. Whole ultrasonographic technology *may* prove a useful tool to have in instances of “high risk pregnancies” (though what that term even means I’ll save for a later discussion) in the vast majority of cases they are unnecessary and have the potential to cause more harm than good. This is especially true for women who are low risk, who seem to be getting just as many ultrasounds as your high risk clientele

      *reposted for botched comment submission*

  64. My OB/GYN recommended 2x weekly ultrasounds and non-stress tests beginning at 32 weeks because I am over 40. I take very good care of my health and had an uncomplicated pregnancy and birth 3 years ago. I decided to do a baseline ultrasound and NST at 32 weeks, but I’m opting out of the rest of them for now (I’m 33 weeks). I’ve already had 2 ultrasounds this pregnancy for dating and anatomy. It’s a difficult position to be in because I want a healthy outcome, but really feel that the recommendations are beyond excessive and may actually put my baby at risk. I also feel like I’m seen as a “difficult patient” because I’m going against medical advise.
    At this point I’m just going to monitor fetal movement closely and have faith that my body/baby are on the right track.

  65. The 20 week ultrasound was a lifesaver for my 4th son. We discovered he had Spina Bifida, a neural tube defect. His spine was forming outside his back in a very fragile bubble. This foreknowledge allowed us to plan a c-section rather than risk a natural birth in which the thinnfilm covering his spine would have broken and we would have lost him. A whole team of specialists was present at his birth because we knew in advance he would need back and brain surgery almost immediately.
    The children before and after him were born vaginally, but I consider the mid-term ultrasound one of the safest and most helpful tools in making sure everything is ok.

  66. I had identical twins as my first, didn’t get an ultrasound until around 18wks (4yrs ago apparently only 1 scan was needed in pregnancy) and found out I was carrying 2. After that it was a scan weekly because they were identical and shared a placenta. Ultrasound actually found TTTS , (ended up getting laser surgery) but due to not careful monitoring after surgery we lost both of our girls.

    With my second pregnancy I had one u/s done around 10wks to rule out twins, and another after 20wks for anatomy. Our little boy is almost 2 and healthy, happy, and talking all the time.

    Now pregnant again, and being told I need to get a scan to determine dating (although I know date of lmp). I am only 11wks and debating wether it is a good idea to do the early scan or just wait until after 20wks… Nurse also said early scan is preferable since I had twins before and there is a possibility I might have them again.

    All that said… Even if it would be twins, I do not think I would agree to so many scans so often. Obviously I would not decline them completely as having experienced the TTTS with my first, do not want to be caught unawares again. But if it will be a single baby, then definitely don’t want any extra..

    My mother had 6 children and no ultrasound with any.. All healthy and most married by now. So ultrasound is a fairly new thing, and definitely not beneficial to everyone across the board…

    • Yes well my grandma had ten and 3 died. An ultrasound would have saved 2 of the three because of cord wrapped around the neck and no way to know. Works both ways.

      • My son had the cord wrapped around his neck twice and we had a homebirth with a midwife. He is now 22 months and healthy. I doubt your grandma’s babies died because of this. Babies are often delivered with the cord wrapped around the neck in other countries.

    • No offense, but saying that our grandparents did it without ultrasounds isn’t comforting. Just because some pregnancies are fine doesn’t mean they all are.

  67. I fail to see the good in posting articles such as these which are wholly skewed, lacking objectivity and clearly pushing an agenda. Please, leave the professionals be the ones to give out medical advice. You fail to discuss numerous documented benefits of having ultrasounds, as was alluded to by the sole commenter who had proper education and professional experience in ultrasound technology. Pre-cancerous molar pregnancies can be diagnosed in early ultrasounds as well as issues involving a leaking sac, both which require medical interventions. Numerous medical conditions can be found and offer life-saving information for both mother and child. This rash of people becoming their own Doctors and being encouraged to dismiss hard Science is creating an epidemic of ignorance, and it starts by clicking on opinion articles like this one.

    • You can find “a study” or two that suggest the Earth is flat. Women should get ultrasounds in order to be educated about their pregnancy. It is not always a good idea to do things the way we did them hundreds of years ago. The reason less women DIE during childbirth in places with up to date maternity care is that we are able to detect and treat or prepare for challenges. I wouldn’t have known that my cervix was insufficient and would have been in the gym overexerting myself and putting my baby at risk of being born waaay too early. Stop scaring people with fringe science.

      • I was trying to leave that comment generally not in response to what you wrote. What you wrote was spot-on. Thank you.

      • The U.S has the worst ranking of maternal mortality in the developed world. Why should anyone take the advice of our obgyns over the wisdom of those who birthed babies for hundreds , no thousands, of years (women and midwives) before the medical community turned a biological function into a medicalized affair.
        Last I heard Biology was not a fringe science. Trust women and mothers to make the best decisions for their bodies, children, & families. When the U.S. medical community learns this, then we will see a change in the abysmal track record of our hospital’s birthing outcomes.

        • Because the death rate of newborns was almost doubled back then because they did it that way. Bad argument. They also thought that that C-sections were bad and that strapping the mother to the bed for a while after birth was a great idea. You go with that.

          • It’s literally the opposite. Infant mortality is HIGHER in the US now than previously.

    • With doctors walking around with the fear of being sued, stuff like this needs to be exposed.

    • Information is available to everybody now days just in case you did not know. Not really fair to say people are becoming ignorant just because they are researching more and trying to get informed. Data and info are at the tip of your fingers and people can compare, corroborate and evaluate information to get their conclusions. If you want to put it in a professional context, then you are not qualified to speak about it either because I guarantee you are not educated in sound waves, frequency range, amplitude, sound propagation, etc, etc. Or do you happen to know how many decibels is a baby exposed just from the machine itself? (I am not even talking about the heat produce from the wave itself), probably not right? (but hey! guess what? you can research it!) The only professional who can really have an opinion here is a sonographer who might be aware of the risks from the machines. You might have experience with readings proceeding from this procedure but that is all. You are not in position either to say this device causes harm or not.
      JC (sound engineer)

  68. I am at 28 weeks and have been strong armed into a few screenings already that I have not wanted. I have chosen to forgo the anatomy screening altogether (ALL of my blood work has come out normal) and I do NOT want any fetal doppler if I don’t have to have it. Meanwhile, I am having a really hard time finding a hospital that will take me now for labor and delivery seeing as I am a “liability” having forgone this ONE test (I am also choosing to forgo RhoGam and the Gestational Diabetes screening, choosing instead to monitor my own blood sugar on my own). I want to have as natural a birth as possible, but no one will take me. Any ideas? I am in Chicago.

    • These are great posts and perspectives. I love the dialogue.

      I can see the benefits to using ultrasound sparingly in certain cases with potential risk or to learn something that can be prepared for in advance of birth. I am also wondering, because very little research has been done, about too much or prolonged exposure. Older “AMA” “Geriatric” whatever…. mothers are encouraged to have many u/s along the way because they are automatically thrown into the high risk category by virtue of age alone, regardless of health going into the pregnancy. My nurse friends have commented on how many babies with “issues” such as cancer, downs, autism and are born to older mothers. They are convinced the “eggs are bad/old.” As conclusive studies aren’t out there either way on this, I wonder how much of it may be due to overexposures. On other sites, I read of women feeling anxious and going for an additional scan just to be reassured and seeing their “baby just dancing away.” We know that they are moving away from the wave frequency. It seems to me that advances in technology encourage us to stop looking at the the obvious or to make correlations. Not everything which is true is verified by some research study. That said, I have pasted a couple of links with information on fetal-maternal deaths from 1900-2000 (improvement!) and from 2000-2015 (decline…). As studies are inconclusive at this point, we, not just as parents but as a society, need to look at what correlations there are. This is what prompts studies in the first place. Excessive exposure to u/s frequency? EMFs? Chemicals in our food, cosmetics and cleaning products? In the meantime, as always, we need to look at all angles and decide what we feel is right for us and our baby without blindly following some dictate. I know that I am not willing to play russian roulette with my or my child’s health. I crack up hearing the stories of my cousins and aunts who were in their mid to late 40s and early 50s having their 7th+ kid back in the 1960s (50 ish years ago!!) either AT HOME or in the hospital without medications (even though they had the option) and they didn’t have home tests the second they suspected pregnancy or ultrasounds along the way… Those babies are still alive and well today without any of the issues. Heck, when I get into my genealogy, these women were having 7-13 kids at home without our technology as far back as the 1500s. So, whatever on all that about how much better we are now. Definitely in many areas, but not all.

      • I agree with you. We don’t know what we don’t know. I think it’s important we have a healthy respect and awareness of the toxins/risks in this world, because we can’t say for certain what is causing what.

    • I delivered w the midwifery group at Swedish Covenant and they were wonderful 🙂

  69. I was pregnant last year (my baby is now 10 months) and I didn’t find this before. I did have a ton of ultrasounds, starting at 9w for dating, an extra to find out the sex at 14w in one of those clinics (i couldn’t wait to find out the sex and the blood test was expensive), the 20w one, but things got crazy after 30w. They found out I had low liquid and put me on non stress test twice a week, which means they I had an ultrasound twice a week for almost 2 months. They were fast ones, but even before I found this article I got worried to be too many ultrasounds. Everything went fine though and I had a healthy big baby boy naturally after 40+5, without any medication. He is now a healthy and active 10 month old about to be walking!

    • Hey claudia same situation going with me but cause is different placenta issue, placenta not providing sufficient blood to baby and they want to check me every week 2 non stress test and twice a week ultrasound iam also worried about my baby health. Is it effect mental or physical health of my baby? Can you contact me through email 🙁

  70. Hi, I’m 10 weeks pregnant and was really concerned about the ultrasound while reading your article but I want you to know I read the study abstract you cited from midwifery today 1999 and that midwifery article totally misrepresented the findings about the 9000 women. If you copy the link at the bottom of the midwifery article and Google it you can see the study findings which show TOTALLY different info than the Midwifery article.

  71. I have what feels like a really silly question. I plan to avoid ultrasounds/dopplers for this pregnancy (my first!) How do I even know the baby is in there and everything is okay if I can’t hear the heartbeat via fetoscope or feel any kicks till 20 weeks or so?

    • Unfortunately you can’t. Pregnancy is just one of those things that’s a mystery. Take care of yourself and see your provider regularly, that’s all we can do.

    • You need to get at least one ultrasound sweetie. There are so many things that could be wrong and could be fixed. Plus read the comment above. This article took good research and twisted it to their own purpose. Please read the original sighted work before you make any choices based on this article. My step daughter would be dead with f an ultrasound. They were able to diagnose her and make sure her mom gave birth in an equipped hospital so that the baby could have a fighting chance.

      • You don’t “need” to do anything rose. Courtney is not a medical professional, I would advise against making decisions based on her personal opinion.

  72. I came to this post tonight in search of information on ultrasounds because, at age 41, it was recommended that I get monthly ultrasounds beginning at 24 weeks, then around 37 weeks they wanted to do one a week. I was told that due to my age, I am at greater risk of a still birth due to the placenta not functioning as well. I said no to the monthly checks at 24 weeks. This baby is very active, his heart rate is always good, and I didn’t feel comfortable with that many ultrasounds. At today’s appointment (I’m now 33 weeks) i was spoken to again about ultrasounds. I’m very conflicted, I really don’t like the idea of doing this many, but, I also don’t want to miss anything. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

  73. I am currently 20 weeks and 1 day and found out last week we’re having a girl! Thank you for writing such a straightforward post on this. I have always assumed that too many ultrasounds could be potentially harmful, however after suffering two miscarriages this past year it was really comforting to me to see our tiny baby at 11 weeks on the ultrasound, as I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and fear. Hopefully for our next pregnancy we may keep it to one ultrasound. It’s looking like I will have at least one more this time though since they couldn’t see everything they wanted to for the anatomy scan. Just praying our baby girl keeps growing healthy and strong…despite us not always being able to do everything “right.” lol 🙂

  74. As a registered sonographer, I can attest that most of the information out there regarding ultrasound is propaganda. Ultrasound is the only imaging modality that does not use radiation and therefore can not be regulated by the government. The FDA has to provide some sort of evidence to potential risks to regulate reimbursement rates to physicians. Ultrasound itself is completely safe and there has never been a study or case in over 40 years that has shown hearing or cavitation. Activating 3D, 4D, Hdlive doesn’t change anything in regards to the power output and doesn’t increase the risk of any heating etc. Yes, some doctors overuse ultrasound and some underuse it and some don’t use it at all. However it is used or not used will not put your child at risk while in the womb. That said there is a risk with ultrasound and that risk is the person performing the test. The greatest risk I see in OB ultrasounds is having unregistered personnel performing the test. Every registered OB sonographer should be able to show you a card or diploma that says they are specifically OBGYN registered through the ARDMS. This ensures that the technologist performing the test has passed the SPI exam which means they have expert knowledge of the machine itself, it’s powers and physics regarding ultrasound itself. It also means they have expert knowledge specifically related to OBGYN sonography which includes pathology and anatomy. Too many doctors are either scanning themselves or having untrained RNs or med techs do there scans. If a technologist can not provide their credentials that specifically say OBGYN registered through ARDMS wether it be diagnostic or elective then I would go to someone else to do the scan. Good luck ladies I think you are awesome!

    • Thank u so much for writing that.

    • As I read this article, I comprehended the same thing as John. It seems the danger results from the untrained person giving the ultrasound, not the ultrasound itself. It is very possible to be driven by emotion and become misinformed by information on the internet. Please becareful ladies!!

    • If ultrasound is so completely, entirely, 100% safe with zero risks, then what does it matter who administers it? I mean as long as they’re not beating you on the head with the wand, what could the harm be, if ultrasound itself is so safe?
      And if ultrasound does have some amount of risk, if not administered properly, having a piece of paper with your name on it does not eliminate human error. Even professionals can have a bad day, make a mistake, get distracted, whatever. Doctors make mistakes quite often. We all make mistakes quite often. Why wouldn’t sonographers?

      • Using needles carries risk – they can transmit aids and tons of other terrible diseases – should you forgo blood tests and necessary shots because of this??? No, you should just make sure you’re getting blood drawn by someone qualified.

    • The FDA calls ultrasound non-ionizing radiation.

      “Ultrasound is based on non-ionizing radiation, so it does not have the same risks as X-rays or other types of imaging systems that use ionizing radiation.”

      Directly from the FDA website:
      “Although ultrasound imaging is generally considered safe when used prudently by appropriately trained health care providers, ultrasound energy has the potential to produce biological effects on the body. Ultrasound waves can heat the tissues slightly. In some cases, it can also produce small pockets of gas in body fluids or tissues (cavitation). The long-term consequences of these effects are still unknown. Because of the particular concern for effects on the fetus, organizations such as the American Institute of Ultrasound in MedicineExternal Link Disclaimer disclaimer iconhave advocated prudent use of ultrasound imaging in pregnancy. Furthermore, the use of ultrasound solely for non-medical purposes such as obtaining fetal ‘keepsake’ videos has been discouraged. Keepsake images or videos are reasonable if they are produced during a medically-indicated exam, and if no additional exposure is required.”

      Since you say you are a registered sonographer, you should probably get it right.

  75. 2 pregnancies – 1st we did a metric crap ton of sonograms. I had been seeing an RE and we had a sonogram to confirm pregnancy and since she knew I was at risk for ectopic, to verify viability of location. Another when I felt a pop and pain to make sure it hadm’t torn free – they found blood behind the placenta and I had several more over the next few weeks to monitor the bleed. They turned me over to my ob at 12 weeks and I had the sonogram at 13 weeks to look at the nueral tube, one at 21 weeks for anatomy, and I can’t even remember how many more…. just insane. Last year, we had a dating and viability scan at 6w to make sure it wasn’t ectopic again, and refused the 10-13w scan. Found out 4 weeks later we had a miscarriage. This year, again, 1 at 6w to date *wasn’t tracking and we oopsed* and make sure it wasn’t ectopic. I ended up having bleeding again and had a scan to make sure we weren’t miscarrying again. I refused the 10-13w scan and had to then fire my ob because of it. Apparently failure to blindly follow orders leads to being bullied and talked down to so I said fine, cancel it all. Been with her for 13 yrs and this is what it came down to. My midwife is the only CNM in town with privileges at the local hospital. My husband and I have a compromise list – he has a horrible feeling about home birth but can accept a midwife is a trained professional and natural birth plan has benefits so the hospital just in case of emergency is our compromise. As part of her privileges, she is required to consult on her cases with the head of ob at that hospital and certain tests are kind of required – such as the 20w anatomy scan so we had one at 20w and another at 26w because they couldn’t see everything at 20w. I intend to have no more. We are “allowed” to do intermittent monitoring during labor. I hate the phrasing they force her to use but she’s in and fighting to make changes for the better and I trust her and hope to help by just being one of her successful deliveries. In the end, due to my known fallopian issues, I would probably opt for just the 2, 6w and 20w+ and refuse all the others unless there was a need such as bleeding/cramping since I have a multiple miscarriage history also. Just weigh your options mama’s and make educated choices. It’s all any of us can do.

  76. Would love some advice!! I am currently 6 weeks into my first pregnancy and I am very worried about making decisions about antenatal care. My brothers are both autistic and I have been doing extensive research into possible causes and triggers and of course ultrasounds have come up. I bought and read the 50 human studies by Jim West so I have an idea of the risks. I have my first appointment due when I will be 10 weeks…and of course I was given the leading clinician in obstetric ultrasound in my area! I intend to decline the ultrasound at this appointment and only have a scan at 20 weeks and never use the Doppler. My question and dilemma about this decision is how will I know my pregnancy is viable and the baby is alive? If i have had a missed miscarriage will I just never know until my body eventually detects it? Also will the consultant think I know better than him if I say I don’t want an ultrasound!?

  77. I am pregnant for the first time. I have Kaiser insurance and they like to do the 1st trimester ultrasounds to confirm pregnancy and heartbeat. I had one at 5w, thinking I was 8w. All we saw was the sac. Went back in a week and saw a heartbeat, so I was around 6w then. So, I had 2 ultrasounds just to confirm there was a heartbeat and the due date. Then at 10w they did another ultrasound for prenatal genetic testing. I got another at 16w, and I’m about to get the Anatomy scan this week. All of them have lasted less than 5 minutes. After reading this, I’m a bit freaked out. I was just kind of going with the flow and had no idea all the risks associated.

  78. So do you advise against the screening scan done to measure the back of the neck to check for genetic disorders like downs?

    • My son was born with Down syndrome. I had an ultrasound at 20 weeks and everything looked fine. They were not able to pick up downs on the ultrasound.

      • My son was also born with Down syndrome. I had an ultrasound at 20 weeks and it did not detect Down syndrome or the heart defects that he had. He is one of the greatest blessings in my life. Love that boy!!!

      • The use of an ultrasound to screen for trisomy 21 & trisomy 18 is done between 12-14 weeks in conjunction with several blood tests. The 20 week anatomy ultrasound doesn’t detect downs syndrome. I just got the results from the prenatal screening (blood tests & ultrasound) and would recommend that for peace of mind. If I hadn’t had a very low chance of trisomy 21 & 18 I would have probably had an amniocentesis, which is much riskier than a couple blood tests & an ultrasound.

  79. I am preggo with my first. Our midwife, a traditionally trained homebirth midwife, requires an ultrasound at 20 weeks to rule out abnormalities that would prevent a home birth (or, in her case, more than twins as she will not deliver 3+ babies at home or won’t deliver twins if baby A is not head down). I’m okay with one ultrasound at 20 weeks as a rule. I did have another last night when I went to the hospital with abdominal pain, and they ruled out pre-term labor and any other issues (it was a gallbladder attack with Braxton Hicks at the same time).

  80. A doctor’s willingness to work with my ultrasound preferences is paramount. I left “the best” midwife clinic in my city when they tried to bully me into unnecessary ultrasounds, claiming my baby was at risk for intrauterine growth restriction–a few months later she was born at 8lb 12oz!

    My advice:

    1. If you want a first-trimester ultrasound (to confirm viability, determine number of babies, or measure for dates) ask your primary care provider to do it himself. After talking about my concern about ultrasound exposure, my doctor advised that we do a transvaginal ultrasound, as he was confident he could get the picture he needed most quickly that way. Instead of leaving the machine on the entire time, he simply inserted it, positioned it, turned it on for less than a second to snap a picture, turned it off, and removed it. The exposure truly was less than a second. We saw one heartbeat, and didn’t wait around for the second one.

    2. If your care provider suggests any ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy (including the anatomy scan), ask questions. What about my pregnancy is giving you cause for concern at this time? If we do the ultrasound, what would we we be looking for? If you find the thing you’re looking for, how will it change my prenatal care? How will it change the delivery? If we don’t do the ultrasound, but it turns out that my baby does have the issue we’re concerned about, at what point after birth would we discover the issue? How would it be treated at that time? If we discover the problem after birth, are the necessary specialists close enough to treat the problem, or would we need to plan to deliver the baby in another city/state?

    3. If you are planning a vaginal delivery, I believe it’s important to know whether you have placenta previa. Around 36 weeks, I always ask my doctor to check for previa, personally. By having the doctor check personally, the exposure time should take 1-5 seconds, since he doesn’t need to take dozens of pictures to send to a second party.

    My experience talking to dozens of doctors, midwives, and ultrasound techs — an ultrasound technician will not cut short your ultrasound exposure significantly, no matter how nicely you ask. Their orders are to get a list of specific pictures for the doctor to review, and they have to get all their pictures or they aren’t following the doctor’s orders. Even the most efficient “anatomy scan” ultrasound will expose baby to MANY minutes. Your doctor CAN order a limited scan, but it will have to be very clearly worded to avoid unnecessary exposure.

    • Thank you for your comment. I had a feeling that no technician would cut it short. Hearing that I might be able to work with my OBGYN to create a list/order is something I didn’t know about.

    • Yes thank you! Great advice. I actually called my ultrasound techs in advance and talked with them in advance, as I had a miscarriage of twins after receiving two early doppler ultrasounds. They agreed to only use M-mode for our viability scan (no color flow, which imparts higher energy to baby) and only do a few quick sweeps. We saw the heartbeat on a quick M-mode sweep. After snapping the pictures, she could get her measurements from the pictures without exposing the baby further. In total I’d say the baby was exposed for about 1 minute, no more than 2 minutes cumulative. But it started kicking wildly after about 30 seconds. Did not seem to like it at all.

    • Great advice!

  81. I had a ultrasound at 6 weeks and I am very concerned and worried after reading this. Normally they do these at 8 weeks but after going through a miscarriage with my previous child I wanted to confirm a heartbeat. Should I be worried. I am really beating myself up after reading this.

    • No! Don’t beat yourself up about it. There’s always the option to use ultrasound more sparingly going forward. Of course, consult your midwife or doctor to come up with a plan that works for you.

  82. Totally agree with this post and think that raising these concerns has nothing to do with ‘fear mongering’ at all. I am pregnant with my first and have unfortunately had u/s scans – I would definitely change this if I could. I think that having 1-2 short scans is probably harmless (preferably under 5 minutes) but otherwise the unknown risks aren’t worth it.

    Why have I had scans when it’s an incredibly low risk pregnancy? Because I am at a private hospital and have health insurance. The doctors know that the cost isn’t a problem because I have insurance and just want to line their own pockets – hence scheduling unnecessary scans. I actually refused a scan because they said it would be 40 minutes which I wasn’t happy with that length of time, however I was told the scan was mandatory. I then asked for the contact details of the hospitals director so that I could ask them if it was mandatory. After that they relented and said that I could refuse it if I wanted but I needed to sign a paper saying that I was refusing medical advice.

    As soon as my child has been delivered I’m writing a huge letter of complaint to this hospital as I had no idea about the risk of u/s when I first went there. Hospitals should issue a clear statement to mothers saying there may be unknown risks to u/s before they schedule any. It makes me furious to think how many women are still in the dark about this (like I was).

    • “Why have I had scans when it’s an incredibly low risk pregnancy? Because I am at a private hospital and have health insurance.”
      I had a low risk pregnancy. It was my first. I got pregnant easily, my labs were great, no complaints. My daughter still had a fatal neural tube defect. You have scans because YOU NEVER KNOW. I hope you had a healthy baby but not all of us do. I’ve met tons of women who were on their 3rd, 4th, 5th child before they encountered infant loss.

  83. Thank you for this article. I am so torn. After miscarrying my first pregnancy, I decided to do a ultrasound 12 weeks into my second pregnancy. I’m glad I did it because it gave me a lot of peace of mind. With my second son (3rd pregnancy) we didn’t do any ultrasounds. I recently miscarried again in November, and have been waiting for my miscarriage to pass naturally and now my doctor suspects that I am pregnant. Because I have not miscarried, or cycled since August, I have no idea what my dates are. I know so much more now about ultrasounds, and in theory would decline them, but feel like for sanity sake I need to know dates for this pregnancy. Now I’m trying to weigh if an earlier one, which is said to be more accurate for dating, is better then a later one, which is said to be better because the baby is larger. So many things to consider!!

  84. It is obvious that the mom you choose to quote have never had pregnancy problems. I think that makes ALL the difference in the world! With my first I started bleeding (a lot! It looked like a murder scene) at 6 weeks. I, like most woman would have, though for sure I miscarried the baby. There was just so much blood. Thanks to an ultrasound we found out that the baby was still there with a strong heartbeat unfortunately there was also a very big blood clot and I had placenta previa. I carried the baby for 10 more weeks before I ended up miscarried in my 2nd trimester.
    With my 2nd pregnancy the same thing happens at 7 weeks, lots of blood. Ultrasound showed the same thing growing baby, strong heart beat, but a blood clot. I bleed the whole pregnancy and at 25 weeks they were able to do an ultrasound to confirm he was head down as I was showing signs of preterm labor because of the blood clot. A week later, because he was head down, he was born vaginally.
    I am now pregnant for the 8th time (5th baby at home) we have had at least 1 ultrasound with each of them as I have had different problems. Another placenta previa where I started bleeding right away. With 2 others I had no period in between weening the baby before and getting pregnant so although my guesses were somewhat accurate of when I got pregnant I had nothing to go by.
    I do agree that they should be limited if at all but some women or some babies have major that without an ultrasound they’d be shooting in the dark as to what is going on.
    Just a suggestion but next time talk to some women that found out something major from an ultrasound and get their opinion or talk to some woman that didn’t have an ultrasound but found out something major AFTER baby was born and see if they would have changed their mind. Experience has everything to do with the decisions you make. Be informed but keep in mind not all pregnancies are sunshine and roses. This is coming from a mama that’s been on bedrest 6 out of my 8 pregnancies and I have 3 babies in heaven……perspective sorta changes things!

    • You might also talk to a mom whose baby was damaged by too numerous ultrasounds as I did. A lady at our church had several very long ultrasounds because they were convinced of an issue with baby’s brain. After all the lengthy scans, they concluded her Baby’s development was perfectly normal. However, this child is now school age and has had numerous developmental delays. It’s hard to have any proof, but her mother is sure that the unnecessary ultrasounds damaged an otherwise normally developing baby. I’ve also known of several mothers who were told their baby had some serious issue. They worried and fretted the whole pregnancy and then Baby was born perfectly normal. I think one scan often opens up a can of worms when technicians think they spot an issue that may not even be there. Just another side of this complicated issue.

      • Our son had ultrasounds every week from 6 weeks onwards up until 15 weeks, and then we had 3-4 scans much later towards the end of pregnancy – all because of bleeding and previous miscarriages. it was incredibly reassuring to be able to see him every week, it helped considerably with our stress levels. And now he’s a happy, healthy 2 year old, who is far past his peers in terms of language skills, and started walking at 10 months. There is no evidence that ultrasounds cause damage, and they’ve been used for a long long time. Yes caution is advised because no one should go through unnecessary medical procedures that could cause more stress than relief (e.g. low risk pregnancies)- but I think everyone can be reassured that the ultra sound itself has little ability to cause harm, and they should be used when there are real concerns. The article is somewhat misleading, because ultrasounds have been used to improve outcomes – an ultrasound that shows low fluid, or other issues with a later term pregnancy can save a baby that otherwise may have died in utero. That is in itself improving an outcome.

  85. Ultrasounds have proven helpful with my second pregnancy. My daughter was breech and we only could tell for sure via ultrasound. I went in for a version and they used the ultrasound to help guide the doctors to make sure she was safely turning (it was a successful version 🙂 ). In total with my second pregnancy I had about 5 separate ultrasounds. She was delivered safely. I feel that ultrasounds can be useful and even life saving, but should be used in moderation.

    • That is the problem with obstetric and even nurse midwifery care…they no longer teach them how to palpate a belly. Midwives are very hands on at every visit…its very easy to tell what position your baby is in without ultrasound. I’m sorry you had to have so many just for positioning, but agree during versions they are important. So glad yours was successful and baby cooperated. 🙂

      • I was under midwifery care for my first and they told me my daughter was heads down by palpating my belly and it turns out she was breeched. I’m not sure the amount of error that can occur with that “diagnosis” but if I were to balance the benefits/risks of a C section or an ultrasound, I’d do an ultrasound.

        • I was also under midwifery care and we believed our baby was in a head down position at 34 weeks. I was also palpated by an osteopath who was caring for me. Turns out she was a footling breech and I went into labor at 35 weeks- so we had to go to the hospital and ended up having a c-section due to her positioning. We did not have any ultrsounds during my pregnancy. We may choose to do one late scan if we choose to have another child to give us the opportunity for a version if needed.

          • Another option is to find a care provider trained in breech birth.

  86. I’ve had two miscarriages in the past. The first was a blighted ovum so the 9 week ultrasound alerted me that I was certain to miscarry. I was glad to have the heads up and knowledge before I miscarried. I actually wish I’d had it earlier though because I started to tell people and it was really heartbreaking to find out for the majority of the time there was no baby in me at all. For my second I had a seven week ultrasound that showed the baby was only measuring five weeks with a very faint heartbeat. We lost the baby at eight weeks. Now with taking 200mg progesterone and baby aspirin the early ultrasounds are showing the baby is growing normally (also HCG and progesterone confirmed healthy levels)!!! I am worried about too much ultrasound exposure but at the same time with my high potential for miscarriage we have been ecstatic to see the heartbeat and growth. I doubt I will ever go without an early ultrasound but I do feel like we cab skip the doppler all together. This is still good knowledge to have. We have local place that does “fun” US so we’ll skip that too now.

    • Totally agree with you there. I didn’t find out about my blighted ovum until 12 weeks, after my 12 week appt. with no heartbeat found with the Doppler (which is why it’s crazy she suggests not getting checked until 18 weeks!!). I had horrible morning sickness for over a month and all for nothing. The actual miscarriage was the worst experience of my life. I am usually a natural person but I would have a d&c if I ever had to go through that again in the future to avoid the emotional and physical aspects of it. I am pregnant now and got an ultrasound at 9 weeks, because again, I did not want to go through months of symptoms only to find out there was never a body and then get contraction like pains over a week and then 12 hours straight ending with a bathtub of blood :p fortunately things are going great this time and I will hopefully only get one more at 20 weeks!

  87. “Fact: Baby ultrasounds do not improve outcomes
    If ultrasounds were able to improve the outcome of babies then the potential risk may be less significant, but studies don’t show any improvement in fetal outcomes when diagnostic ultrasounds are used.”

    This is totally wrong. I had only one ultrasound for the anatomy scan with my perfect little baby. If I had done more later on, there is a chance that the doctors could have noticed his very tight true knot and cord around his neck. Because I didn’t have any more ultrasounds, my baby died when I was 37 weeks pregnant. If I had known, I would have paid more attention to his kicks and I would have been watched more closely.

    What happened to us is EXTREMELY rare. And this article also doesn’t account for high risk pregnancies? How can you know that you are at a high risk with out proper monitoring? I realize I am little bias because of my experience, but I would bet that if you had gone through the death of your child, you would be too.

  88. My story: I was planning on the NT scan and the 20 week anatomy scan. My doctor requested an early anatomy scan at 16 weeks, which I skipped (because of articles like this.)

    My doctors missed my partial molar pregnancy at the 12 week scan. Because I skipped the 16w scan (which would have clearly seen the problem), I ended up in the hospital at 18w, with preeclampsia and out of control blood pressure. The doctors were worried that I would have a stroke.

    It’s good that people understand the risks and rewards of ultrasounds, but also need to understand the possible complications of not having the scans.

  89. I don’t think this is fair! How is it that out of all the stuff I have read as of 19 weeks this is the first article I am reading that ultrasounds/dopplers are not safe?? It’s ridiculous. If they were so unsafe and should be avoided why has no one said anything about this before I happened to stumble upon this article. I have had 4 ultrasounds to date due to problems that I’ve had throughout the pregnancy and I actually purchased a fetel home doppler at week 15! I can’t believe now that this all could of been hurting my baby! I feel ignorant and now distrust all these medical professionals that have put my babies life in jeopardy due to scans that I had no idea were not necessary. What else are they not telling me. And how many other mamas are out there in the dark about this subject!?

  90. I did not know with my first, what I know now. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gotten any. I am now due in April with my third child, and am doing 0 ultrasounds.

  91. I appreciate the information on the ultrasounds. I agree that there are many benefits of getting an ultrasound, it can really help you learn a lot about your baby and what to expect before the actual birth. My sister is pregnant and debating on getting an ultrasound, I will be sure to share this information with her.

  92. Thanks for this well-rounded and informative post! We just found out we’re expecting baby #5 and I’m re-researching “all the things”. We had one ultrasound with our 4th, like many, just to rule out twins or issues that would prevent a home-birth. Because it’s only my second home-birth and the nearest neo-natal unit is over 100 miles away, I think I’ll be doing one ultrasound after 22 weeks, and we’ll keep it short! My midwives practiced with the fetoscope last pregnancy, so I think I’ll “help them practice” again this time around!

  93. Thanks for pointing out that a baby’s ultrasound before 14 weeks gestation is the most accurate way to predict the due date. You also mention that when women had an ultrasound for dating their child they were less likely to be induced for post-term pregnancy– fascinating. I think it’s important to get a 3d imaging done of your baby so that if there are any early complications, they can be detected.

    • If a woman has regular cycles and knows when her last period was, there is no need for a dating ultrasound. Further, 3d ultrasounds are not necessary for detecting fetal abnormalities, that is what the 20 week anatomy scan is for if parents are concerned. 3d and 4d imaging is not diagnostically necessary and just a ploy to get parents to spend more money while risking their child’s health.

  94. It’s amazing how many benefits there are to having an ultrasound! I had no idea that there were so many different things that doctors could detect through an ultrasound. I just recently found out I’m pregnant, so I’ll be going in for an ultrasound soon. What I’m most excited for, however, is when I get to find out if the sex of the baby.

  95. While your points are true for low risk pregnancies, you fail to address that high risk pregnancies require more ultrasounds. And in these cases the benefits far outweigh the risks. I’m my case I had well over 12 ultrasounds during my monochorionic diamniotic twin pregnancy. A MoDi twin pregnancy is at high risk for disproportionate placenta sharing which can lead to fetal death, which can be mitigated by fetal surgery. Also my twins and I nearly died due to HELLP syndrome which was caught in part by an ultrasound that showed fetal distress and preterm labor. I had no idea I was in labor, as I’m one of those “lucky women” who don’t feel contractions despite them being less than a minute apart. So although some of us natural mamas would have liked to avoid unnecessary ultrasounds, many times they are quite necessary… Hopefully my next pregnancy goes more smoothly and requires less intervention but I do not regret for an instant the peace of mind that came from knowing my babies were ok.

  96. i had 4 untrasounds, 8 week, 12 week, 20 week, 40 week (to check the fluids to make sure it was safe to continue into the 41/42 week mark). The only thing I would have changed would be to have made sure I had a registered sonographer for the 20 week appointment. They were training a gal and running late, didn’t tell me until I was in the room. I had that ring on my belly for an HOUR. I’d probably skip the 12 week one next time, unless they have concerns. I definitely wanted to have the detailed 20 week scan since we declined genetic testing, had there been anything amiss the hospital could have been better prepared (isn’t that reason enough??? Making sure the best staff is on standby to help that precious little baby?) My baby was born 9lb 12 oz(estimated 8lb, LOL) and has been at the top of the charts since day one and is an overall great kid(even when supplementing with Costco formula *gasp*). Apparently a couple hours of untrasounds had no adverse effects, not that I was ever concerned about it.

  97. This is the worst articles I have read from Mama Natural yet. All of the medically educated women here have pointed out why it falls under that category, but you continue to support your opinion and scare the less knowing. Also, you might mention that everyone turn off their wifi routers while they sleep because of EMFs or don’t fly because of radiation (being facetious) . This is just quasi-science and can be very harmful to mamas (both physically and psychologically).

    • Edit- This is one of the worst articles…

      • “All of the medically educated women” don’t agree with this opinion. I am a PhD educated biomedical scientist with a concentration in reproductive biology. This article indicated it was the opinion of the author. What it highlights for me is the frequency with which OBs do not follow AGOGs recommendations on ultrasounds for low-risk pregnancies. The intervention cascade is real and a likely cause of increasing perinatal mortality in the U.S. The U.S. is one of the few places where risk is increasing despite increased medical spending. Perhaps the disclaimer about this opinion only being applicable to low-risk women was not made frequently for your preference. However, the article was well presented as an opinion. The author even says IMHO. The big paradox here is that OBs ought to practice evidenced-based medicine that is consistent with current ACOG guidelines. However, this is rarely the case. As pregnant women, this is a huge concern. Personally, I would never seek the care of an OB unless my pregnancy became high-risk. OBs are trained surgeons with skills needed to save the lives of complicated pregnancies. However, if you spend a few days with them on L&D you may hear how much they “hate watching women push.” So, don’t lump all medically educated women in with you. I have received the highest levels of education within my discipline and I disagree with you much more than the author of this article.

        • Thank you ALS! Perfectly stated. Plenty of educated women here who don’t prescribe to the cascade of interventions path.

        • ??thank you! This was the best comment on here! I appreciate your well educated researched perspective!!

    • Thank you for this post! This article just scared the shit out of me at 19 weeks having had four ultrasounds and a hand held fetel doppler. I have never heard these arguments in ultrasounds before and feel bad that I didn’t inform myself sooner of these potential risks.

      • Please ditch your doppler and buy a fetoscope if you really need the peace of mind.

  98. Interesting article. I had to have two extra ultrasounds due to two fibroids found (near my uterus and naval). They seemed to take forever, and caused even more pain than I was already in (due to one firbroid degenerating) but we’re necessary to determine that the baby and I were in good health. Otherwise I would’ve only undergone 2, dating and gender assessment.

  99. It’s more than a little annoying to say that a dating ultrasound is not necessary because the date of LMP is just as accurate. In both my pregnancies my LMP was 4 months before conception. It would be helpful to acknowledge that some women are not regular enough to rely on LMPs.

    • Good point. If someone doesn’t have regular menstrual cycles (or they are unpredictable), this could be a reason for ultrasound.

      • Thanks for the ultrasound info. I think 0-2 ultrasounds sounds like the right range for low-risk pregnancies. I understand the desire to do the 20-22 week ultrasound and possibly one toward the end to confirm position and ensure that the umbilical cord isn’t harming the baby, both short in duration and done by a doctor or midwife, not a tech. Just a suggestion for moms with irregular periods – Instead of relying on a dating ultrasound, it might be a good idea to use an ovulation monitor. My periods are irregular, but the monitor pinpointed my exact ovulation date, and I got pregnant that month. I guess for those who don’t know to use the monitor prior to pregnancy, then just keep it in mind for subsequent pregnancies.

        • hi Elise – which ovulation monitor did you use? i’m trying to Clearblue Ovulation Monitor next cycle (my period started today). we’ve been trying (unsuccessfully, obviously) to get pregnant for the last 12 months. i’d been on the pill for 20 (!) years before this, so i wanted to give my body some time to regulate itself and sort out the hormones. after 20 years of 28-day cycles every four weeks on the dot, i’ve unfortunately discovered that without the pill, i have long cycles. after a year of this, it looks like i have a 35-42 day cycle. i’m nervous and anxious and frustrated, and i swore i’d never be one of those women who charted her cycles and ovulation and fertility, and yet here i am. how long did it take for you to conceive after you used an ovulation monitor, if you don’t mind me asking? how regular was your period before then? please feel to answer as much of my question or as little as you like, thank you in advance!

  100. Is there a time when having an ultrasound produces more risk? My RE initially though the my pregnancy may be ectopic. I had 2 back to back ultrasounds very early in my pregnancy that were about 30 minutes each and I’ve been very concerned since I read about the studies from China.

    • Ectopic pregnancy is a serious concern and a fine reason for having an ultrasound or two. Don’t worry too much about it, you and baby are likely fine 🙂

  101. I’ve had 1 sonogram (when I wasn’t pregnant), which confirmed the diagnosis of PCOS. I didn’t have any with either of my pregnancies because I miscarried too early. I plan on having 2 during any future pregnancies. I want an early one to confirm there’s a baby (last pregnancy was a blighted ovum) and a heartbeat (It was difficult to accept I’d never get to see/hear the babies heartbeats with the miscarriages.), and an anatomy scan. I’m not interested in learning the gender until birth, but I’d like to be informed since I’m hopeful for home birth(s). The only other reason I’d get another one would be to rule out placenta previa, which I’m kinda scared of.

  102. I had a link to this post in my recent 19 week email update. Ive found it very useful but would have liked to have been linked to it much earlier in the pregnancy as I have already had the 12 week dating scan which is standard in the UK. I would probably have forgone that scan had I considered earlier and chosen the one I am due this week at 20 weeks, however, I will now forego the 20 week scan and spend some time considering whether I should have the 34 week scan which has apparently become standard in the UK since my last Pregnancy. On a side note to reassure anyone who is concerned, I took part in a world wide study for fetal development size in my last pregnancy and had ultrasound scans every 6 weeks throughout (5 in total!) including 3D imaging and photos, and all the usual dopplers for first pregnancy mid wife appointments. My son was born on his due date (rare!!) and was perfectly healthy. Don’t be over scared by the research. Its hard to feel happy with decisions in pregnancy so if you find out different information having already had a procedure, put it aside and move on.

  103. Thank you so much for this! We must have done similar research, because we passed on all routine ultrasounds for my pregnancy for the exact reasons you mentioned. My pregnancy was textbook boring and I didn’t see the need. Because I was going to be having a very low intervention birth, my husband and I decided for one quick scan at 35 weeks to check placenta position and for heart defects. The total scan was less than 10 minutes. I still didn’t feel it was necessary, but I would rather have known going into the birth that everything was good than to have the medical team on call at the birth pressure me into something out of fear of the unknown.

  104. Well now I’m worried. After PTSD from the loss of my last baby I’ve had two ultrasounds and I’ve heard the heartbeat just under once a week. I am now 18 weeks. I have the anatomy scan scheduled later this month. I feel like I can never make the right decisions. Being pregnant is way harder than parenting.

    • I hear ya, Sarah. But don’t beat yourself up about things. If you’re seeking to limit ultrasound exposure, just dial them way back (or stop doing them unless medically necessary) after the anatomy scan. You’re almost at the stage of pregnancy where a fetoscope can be used – ask your midwife or OBGYN to use that instead of the doppler.

  105. I’m with a natural doctor/midwife practice {they’ll let me go to 44 weeks before induction or c-section}. But, since I’m high risk and had two previous miscarriages, they recommended monthly ultrasounds up to 20 weeks. It was a wonderful stress reliever; my second miscarriage, the baby died and I still carried him for a month before they discovered he had no heartbeat-I ended up in the hospital with sepsis. Maternal stress isn’t good for the baby either, so having that peace of mind was wonderful.

  106. In my first pregnancy I had a low lying placenta at my 20 week scan. I returned for another US later to check on the placenta position and was diagnosed with Vasa Previa. If this had not been detected on US, studies have found a 100% infant mortality rate. I still get goose bumps when I look at the photos of the placenta and fetal blood vessel malformation. In specific cases, US does save babies lives. There would have been no other way to detect this condition.

  107. I am a Certified Nurse Midwife, and the first ARDMS (American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers) midwifery sonography certification CNM’s will sit the first ever exam specifically for midwifery. YES, a midwife who is certified in ultrasound. I propose the model of midwifery care, utilizing shared decision making, for the goal of physiologic birth and now a midwife sonography certification may very well be the safest, evidence based approach solution.

  108. So when you state that ultrasounds don’t improve the outcome of the baby I wonder about spina bifida, requiring immediate surgery after birth. Or a nuchal cord changing how the doctor might choose to deliver the baby. Or a cleft palate or a club foot. Or a herniated bowel into the thoracic chamber. Or a ventricular septum defect. Or a herniated gut through the abdominal wall. These things happen. And without close monitoring of your baby, you could loose the baby before you even have a chance to hold him/her. I’m not trying to rant. But I know ultrasound. I know the risks. Everyone go buy a book on the physics of ultrasound. Preferably Kremkua ( or however you spell it) and study it. In any of these studies did they identify the mechanical index used? I doubt it. Because the mechanical index used in modern ultrasound on fetuses is 0.3 percent of what it would take to actually incur damage to the fetus. And that means you would have to be ultrasounding the exact same peice of tissue on the fetus for days before any real damage to happen. Ultrasound machines are maxed at their power output to an extremely conservative level to avoid any risk ever being possible. And most real registered ultrasound technologists know to use m-mode when finding the fetuses heartrate and even if they do use doppler, it still is at a level too low to cause damage. These experiments that you talk about are using a power index far greater than any ultrasound machine used for diagnostic purposes would allow. But what do I know. Except that ultrasound can save lives and shouldn’t be thought of as something your doctor is forcing you do to. But everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Some people are just more eduacated than others. It’s easy to find the controversial articles and use them as research but the actual physics and instrumentation used on modern day ultrasounds isn’t really mentioned. How there is a setting for bone, for soft tissue, for cardiac. All of these settings will not allow the ultrasound machine to operate over a certain power level. and to ask your sonographer to shorten the exam and pressure them into rushing could be the difference between life and death. And when you are rushing them and the baby is in a poor position to properly visualize the spine and spina bifida is missed I hope you can live with that. I hope that when the blood supply to the baby is below baseline and retrograde and the baby essentially dies from the lack of blood supply that you can live with that. I’m not trying to be morbid but I am trying to show you that the benifits out way any “risks” shown on mice at an ultrasound power level 97% higher than used in modern medicine. But I’m just a registered diagnostic medical sonographer so I guess I’m a little biased. I’ve saved too many little babies not to be.

    • From an ultrasound technologist, thank you. For everyone else please read this article. Please see a professional, too many babies have had complications with not being seen (midwife only). I see them all the time at the office. Your little one is worth it.

    • Hi Claire, you make many valid points. Concerns about the health and well being of baby WOULD make us assume that taking a look at everything in-utero would make it all safer. However, what studies done have actually shown is that the outcomes for babies (and the children they grow into) are similar whether or not ultrasounds are done routinely, and ultrasounds should not be done on the premise that they will improve pregnancy outcomes. The Cochrane review, which is a gold standard for reviewing medical literature, states: “Routine scans do not seem to be associated with reductions in adverse outcomes for babies or in health service use by mothers and babies.” You can read more here (although you do have to ultimately pay for the full article or access it through a university database):;jsessionid=6871CEC111BC461CCA8ECFF1B8B73FB5.f02t03.

      To answer your specific list of problems, many of these problems are not reliably detected on ultrasound. Additionally, for those related to genetic conditions, non-invasive genetic screening can be utilized at a much lower risk to the mother and baby. Likewise, detection of brain and spinal cord abnormalities can be done with a simple blood test of the mother between 15 and 20 weeks gestation. There is no alternate delivery plan for nuchal cords–cords are wrapped around the baby’s neck in 1 in 3 births. This is a very normal part of birth and it is a myth that it is related to adverse outcomes.

      ACOG, ACNM, and the American College of Radiology all assert that while ultrasound may be helpful in some instances, routine use of ultrasound without a medical reason (or even with one) is not “life saving.” All of these organizations recommend that ultrasounds be used with caution because they are not the most reliable of tools for making a diagnosis.

      This article does not assert that women should never have ultrasounds or that ultrasounds are wrong. What it does discuss is the fact that routine ultrasounds without a medical reason are not supported by evidence, and that women should have thoughtful conversations with their healthcare providers about ultrasound. Most women in the United States will opt for an anatomy ultrasound around 20 weeks, but many women are being subjected to an ultrasound every time they see their healthcare provider which is not recommended by any professional organization. The purpose of this article is for women to have information that allows them to make a very personal choice.

      -Maura Winkler, RN, doula (Team Mama Natural)

    • Finally, someone who makes sense!! As I read this article, I kept thinking to myself “where’s the rest of the evidence in these studies”? I also felt like this article was pretty biased, even though I don’t think the author meant it to be. Ultrasounds are extremely informative and of course should only be done by a qualified sonographer. Thank you, Claire, for posting your comment!

      • We’re doing a study here in Western Australia that has proven that measuring the cervical length at 20 weeks has dramatically reduced pre-term birth rates and, therefore, infant mortality here.
        Babies with severe heart defects go instantly blue when born and require a surgical team waiting at the bedside for immediate action.
        Surgeons are doing amazing intra-uterine surgery during pregnancy to save babies that would otherwise die when born.
        All of these things and more are picked up on ultrasound.
        When you say doppler are you talking about Pulsed wave doppler or colour doppler? It’s widely accepted that PW doppler should not be used in the first trimester as it uses a lot of power and we really don’t know what that could do (probably nothing) but we avoid it to be safe. Colour is used briefly in the 12 week nuchal scan (if you choose to have it) and the 20 week scan to ascertain whether there are 2 umbilical arteries, renal arteries, check the heart and occasionally for cord insertion. Pulsed wave is not required at 20 weeks and is only used in the third trimester to check the umbilical artery if there is a query of IUGR (intra-uterine grown retardation).
        Please educate yourself outside this article with some studies using small samples groups and please remember that doppler comes in different forms, the power can be adjusted (TI = thermal index) and it is not the same as the ultrasound mode where we are just looking at baby’s structures.
        If you still decide to “let nature take its course” then that is your choice but make it an educated one.

  109. As a pediatric chiropractor, I did know about many of these benefits and risks of ultrasounds in time to make informed choices for my 3 pregnancies. Playing a role in my decision-making was a deep-seated belief that I would not abort my baby if something was suspected to be wrong (many false positives can occur). If the pregnancy wasn’t meant to be, then it wasn’t meant to be.
    My first two babies turned out fine. I was in my 30s and we had great midwives. My latest pregnancy, I was 40 and the baby didn’t make it. I had pre-term labour at 22 weeks and the autopsy said the baby stopped growing a few weeks earlier. I had an ultrasound after the fact to ensure that my uterus had emptied fully.
    Do I regret my decision to have turned down the Doppler and prenatal ultrasounds? No. I gave my baby all the opportunity I could to feel loved and minimized stress to myself and to the baby. Ultrasounds do add stress to a developing baby and positive findings (false and true) greatly increase stress to the parents. Maybe if my life were in danger, then I would have chosen differently. I don’t deny that there can be benefits to ultrasounds, but I’m grateful to have enough information to decide what’s best for me, and to have midwives that let me choose for myself.

  110. Ultrasounds saved my baby’s life. I have an antibody in my blood and had ultrasounds at least weekly to make sure he wasn’t anemic. He needed 4 blood transfusions before birth. So during those procedures they had the ultrasound on him for anywhere from 30 min-1hour to do that. Plus my regular weekly scans. Before ultrasounds they would have done amnios every week. I’ll take the scans.

    • Ultrasounds with a medical reason such as the above most certainly have a time and a place. This article is specifically discussing routine ultrasound sonography. Glad you and your baby are healthy!

      • Great article overall! However, I do think the article would be more well-rounded if it included more examples of serious complications that ultrasounds can detect. The article mentions a baby with one kidney, but I see in the comments there is a much wider variety of possible complications.

        With my first, I originally didn’t want any ultrasounds because of what I learned from Janice Barcello of Birth of a New Earth. It sounded very scary and threatening. However, I was petite and looked really big. People thought I was having twins, so I had one ultrasound to rule out multiples. It ended up being so unclear that the image they showed me didn’t even resemble a baby at all! So disappointing, and I didn’t find out the gender. I was going to a cheap clinic that didn’t offer fetoscopes at all, just pushed the Doppler.

        With my second pregnancy, I read articles like these and thought the ultrasound was too much harm again. I didn’t have a reason for one. I had no idea that some babies may need surgery immediately after birth or could have conditions in which they are likely to die right after birth! Or if I did, it was in the very back of my mind so I didn’t think the ultrasound had much benefit. I was pretty confident my baby was fine. I went to an amazing birth center, but they required the dopplar before baby was big enough for the fetoscope and used the dopplar during my fantastic water birth.

        Now I am in my third pregnancy and originally didn’t plan to have an ultrasound. Then my midwife who delivered my last baby smiled and said it was about time to start thinking of the ‘fun stuff’…whether I wanted an ultrasound or not. I realized that I honestly do NOT like waiting to find out the gender like my last two pregnancies. I certainly can…. but I would love to narrow down my name search instead of searching for two genders and I would love to not stick to buying ONLY neutral clothing.

        So for selfish reasons, I spent a lot of time this past week investigating ultrasounds further. I read this article once and was leaning towards not getting one. This article mostly highlights the risks and dangers but does talk about the middle ground to only get one ultrasound. It was the statement about if the author was pregnant again or knew what she knows now in the past she would choose not get any ultrasounds that had me considering the severity. The author has the right to her opinion and it’s great she honestly shared it.

        Then I decided to check this article out again, this time reading EVERY COMMENT. I am so grateful for all of the comments and sharing of stories. While it’s true that many babies are born healthy without ultrasounds, it was very important for me to read about all of the various examples of lives being saved because something was caught ahead of time and solutions could be prepared. It was also reassuring to read that babies who have had multiple ultrasounds can still thrive and be healthy.

        So, this time around I will happily get just one ultrasound around week 21… not 3D, request it be done thoroughly but quickly, and find out the gender of this baby! If all goes well, I will enjoy narrowing my name search (though if I’m having a girl we will likely go with Rhea!) and picking out a wider range of clothing 🙂

  111. So what are valid medical reasons for ultrasounds? In my last pregnancy, I failed the gestational diabetes test by one point and the doctors really pushed for bi-weekly ultrasounds (I declined – and had a perfectly healthy, normal sized baby). With my current pregnancy, I am 39 and considered of advanced maternal age. Once again, I’m being pressured to have biweekly ultrasounds for the remaining 10 weeks of my pregnancy, supposedly because there is new research showing that this can prevent stillbirth. My gut tells me to decline these as well and do daily kick counts instead. I feel like it’s so hard to know what the right answer is. The doctors (and even midwives that I’m seeing now) are so concerned with avoiding liability and following protocols, I don’t feel like I can get a true medical opinion on what the real risks are.

    • Its a really tough call, Larissa, and I honestly think that not enough research has been done for ACNM, ACOG, or the American College of Radiologists to actually make official recommendations. Right now they all recommend that ultrasounds be used for medical indications not routinely, but don’t really define what these medical indications are. I would ask your doctor some questions about what the risk of stillbirth actually is for your age and health status–the absolute risk is probably extremely low. Its such a personal decision. If only we did not have to make such challenging decisions for our families!

      -Maura Winkler, RN, doula

  112. With my first I was young and brash and had no ultrasounds or dopplers. Just fetascope. Unless of course you count the swim I had w dophins at 8 months pregnant with a mom and baby dolphin circling my belly and chittering. Now I am pregnant again at 45 naturally, same dad, and we chose to do genetic testing as well as one ultrasound. All is well so far at 32 weeks and I plan to allow doppler at labor. I do think that honoring my spirit in my heart about it both times has been good choice! And pray that baby next will be super healthy like our beautiful natural daughter.

  113. My twins had an ultrasound every two weeks for the whole pregnancy (dopplers and vaginal ultrasounds included). They always hid and ran away from the sonoscope and I have to admit that I was not at all ok with it, but I didn’t know what to do instead and the attitude of the doctors was really intimidating. Plus, I was supposed to be at absolute rest, but guess what? I was alone in a foreign country, with an older child, didn’t have a car, and the hospital was far away from home. Needless to say, all of these routine controls left me more exhausted than anything else I had to do.

    I ended up having a natural delivery and I was outrageously happy, but the problems were only about to start. My twins would cry ALL DAY LONG for no apparent reason. So far they keep having problematic behavior, sleeping issues, they are nervous, sometimes aggressive and clearly hyperactive, among other things. And I know of other twins that were in the same hospital who had very similar problems, while others whose development was checked elsewhere didn’t.

    I am not an expert and obviously I can’t make an absolute statement based on my particular experience, because there are a bunch of variables which one cannot control. But I definitely think that ultrasounds should be studied more deeply and not simply give a piece of paper to pregnant women saying “ultrasound are perfectly safe, go ahead and make one every two weeks”…

    I would definitely do many things differently now.

  114. If I had my way I would have had no ultrasounds at all and a home birth. Due to fertility issues I had to have ultrasounds. At 12 weeks we found out the baby had an omphalocele. At 20 weeks we found out he actually had Limb Body Wall Complex which means he would not survive after being born, if he survived birth at all. Imagine if I had done what I originally would have planned and had him at home. I now think that you should have 1 or 2 ultrasounds to make sure the baby is developing properly. I still won’t go for 1 every week…but I think we need to take advantage of certain aspects of modern technology and medicine. For my next child, am still planning a mostly natural pregnancy, birth and natural parenting but I definitely will be having an ultrasound (or 3).

  115. I had a few done with my own pregnancy to make sure babies heart was developing properly due to meds I had to take. However, my SIL found out on a routine US that my nephew had spinabifida…within a month she was in another state having fetal surgery to repair the defect….he is now learning to walk and meeting all of his milestones at the rate of a premie (which he was by about 8 weeks) if his US hadn’t have taken place he was be a paraplegic at best (due to where his defect is) and they would not have known about his SB or thought to look into any possible problems because we have no family history of genetic defects and she already had two healthy babies.
    I’m pretty crunchy but I do feel that the power of prayer and the use of our modern medical technology saves lives. If you are interested in following Noah’s story my SIL has a FB page specifically for that it’s call “Mr. Noah William”

    **not trying to just plug his page but I thought since it was relevant to my post I would throw it out there for anyone who was interested 🙂

  116. I wonder the emotional side to this issue. It seems like in the majority of cases having one ultrasound may reduce the fears of the mama and put her mind at ease. As we know, mama’s emotional world is so important to the growing baby, and it could be possible that the emotional closeness and calming of doubts that a healthy ultrasound reveals will help the baby in the long-term. On the other hand, for minor health issues, mama may be stressed following the ultrasound when otherwise she wouldn’t be, and stress could case issues to intensify for the baby.
    Also, I would love to hear more about the doppler and it’s effects. Though I have only gotten the 20 week ultrasound, my midwife uses a doppler for the heartbeat every visit. I didn’t know it could be harmful. Should I tell her to limit it?

  117. I’m 31 weeks pregnant with my fifth. With the first four, I avoided ultrasounds as much as I could and only allowed the use of the Doppler during labour. Having said that, two of the four had scans; one because she did the breech thing and the other because she was overdue and my midwife wanted the placenta checked to see if I could keep going.

    This pregnancy is different. I’m now 43 (I was in my late 20s with the others) and the whole DS risk preyed on my mind. I had the first scan and really not surprisingly, it came back as high risk. I’d only planned for that scan but with the result, I chose to do the later anatomy scan to check for DS soft markers. It all looks good and the specialist admitted my high risk rating was only because of my age. Having that second scan eased my anxiety considerably. The Doppler is still banned until labour!

    • Hi, Rebecca, I have a question for you. What do you mean by scan? Are you talking about the v-scan or an ultrasound? I am pregnant with my 4th which is a rainbow baby. I have two boys and my 3rd I miscarried. Before I go in for my 1st prenatal, I want to see I should only go the v-scan route to check for the heartbeat, b/c I understand about the doppler being dangerous. Btw- does anyone know how safe the v-scan is?

      • I’m not American so we use different terminology. I had a ‘scan’ at 12 weeks to measure the nuchal thickness for DS risk. Here, the full terminology is ultrasound scan – I think you call it a sonogram. Everyone here just says scan and we call know what we are talking about!

        Now I’ve never heard the term rainbow baby – I’m assuming from your context that it means a baby after a miscarriage. If that’s the case, mine is a rainbow baby too.

        V-scan I’m assuming is a vaginal ultrasound scan. I had one of those after my miscarriage when they were looking for retained tissue. From what I’ve read (and I’m no expert), they use the same technology as normal sonograms. I’ve been told the Doppler uses continuous sound waves but the sonograms pulse therefore the sonograms give less exposure. But if the Doppler is used quickly (enough to hear a heartbeat) there would be less exposure than a sonogram which could be used for longer – visuals are so much more fun to look at compared to a dull audio.

        The other issue is I have no idea when Americans have their first prenatal visit (we call them antenatal visits). Everybody here has a midwife and we book her as soon as we know we’re pregnant. She gives us the forms for blood work and refers us for scans (if we want them). For my 28 week blood work, my midwife even took the blood (it helps we live five minutes from the hospital and she was on her way there and yes, she visits me at home). The only doctor I have seen is the specialist who discussed my nuchal testing results. I’ve never seen a doctor in any of my other pregnancies or labours and I would hazard a guess that a respectable majority of women here are the same (apart from those who need C-sections!). It’s a different world over the international dateline.

        • Thanks Rebecca for replying. I understand that terminology is different in other parts of the world (and possible even in different parts of the states here too). So a scan would mean ultra-sound. I use a mid-wife also, but she does deliver in the hospital, but makes it very nice. Unless she thinks there is a problem, I don’t plan to have an ultra-sound done and I definitely like surprises with the gender. A v-scan is what my mid-wife uses and it’s like a mini-ultra-sound but she says much safer. She does wave a wand on my stomach and on a mini-screen we can see the baby – of course not good enough to see gender or if there is any health problems. Mainly to see the heartbeat or to see movement.
          Yes, a rainbow baby is the baby after a miscarriage. I learned that with my last miscarriage. Right now, I am barely 5 wks along so still very early. My 3rd baby, I was supposed to be 15 weeks along, but baby had died around 11-12 weeks. So I am praying that this one will be fine.
          I haven’t set up my 1st appointment yet, I should I know soon.
          I also agree mid-wives are great. My 1st son I used a doctor, but with my 2nd son and the rest I have and will use my midwife. My husband isn’t comfortable with a homebirth (although my Mom had one with my brother and my sister has had all four of her children at home with a midwife). My hospital is wonderful and let my mid-wife do everything for me with some nurses to help.

          I hope your have a wonderful pregnancy and delivery.

  118. I can see your point and love how this is informative. My 1st son I had 3 ultra-sounds (last one I don’t think was needed). 2nd son, zero ultra sounds. My 3rd baby, at my 15 wk appointment was found no heart beat. So after using a V-scan and doppler, did go in for an ultra-sound and it was confirmed baby had passed a few weeks prior. I just found out I am pregnant with my rainbow baby. So is a doppler really that bad? B/c if I had to wait until 20 wks to use the fetomoter (or whatever it was meantioned) I wouldn’t want to wait that long to hear a heart beat. What are your thoughts on a V-Scan?

    • Hi Amy, so sorry for your loss! I would say hearing your baby’s heartbeat would probably be better so that you can have peace and comfort. Peace of mind is HUGE for us mamas and when we’re nervous or scared, we can get our adrenalin and other stress hormones out of whack. I would go with a quick Doppler.

      • thanks! Mama Natural. At least use a doppler until a fetoscope is able to be used.

        • Or until you can feel the baby kick. If it’s kicking, it has a heartbeat.

      • I’m confused by this…didn’t the research cited in the article show a Doppler was more potentially risky than ultrasound? Wouldn’t a quick US be safer to confirm heartbeat?

  119. I skimmed through this article but didn’t see anything referring to potential birth defects. At 20-ish weeks my ultrasound revealed a serious heart defect, which was operated on at 7 months old. Many babies with her heart defect also have other lifelong health conditions (Down’s Syndrome, etc.) so it was imperative to also have these other tests done so a health care plan could be put in place. Thankfully she is healthy!

    • Thank goodness! There is no doubt ultrasounds can detect birth defects and other issues. I mention in the post about a friend who’s son had only one kidney. It’s interesting though that the studies show that ultrasounds don’t improve baby or maternal health.

      • Interestingly, the Cochrane review mentioned here also states “Long-term follow-up of children exposed to scan in utero does not indicate that scans have a detrimental effect on children’s physical or cognitive development.” and also “Caution needs to be exercised in interpreting the results of aspects of this review in view of the fact that there is considerable variability in both the timing and the number of scans women received.”. So if there’s no harm, but not necessarily benefit, I feel there’s no reason to avoid them when the doctor feels they’re necessary.

    • Caused it rather than revealed it.

  120. With my last baby I had 1 done at the typical 20 weeks. It revealed no issues and that was that.
    I am currently pregnant, only around 12 weeks. When we went in for the first appt and my midwife could not find the heartbeat. She had me do an US for “fetal viability”. What it showed was that there was indeed a healthy baby with a heartbeat but I was 2 1/2 weeks less along than I thought. Basing it off my last period was wrong because I must have ovulated on day 30 of my cycle! I would have never guessed!
    This appt also revealed that I have become sensitized to this baby which is a scary position to be in. My midwife has already said that I will have more ultrasounds than typical because this is so high risk. While I am very much a natural mama, I am ok with this as the baby would likely die without extremely close monitoring.
    Every situation is different and you have to do what’s best for you and your baby.

    • Absolutely! I hope and pray your pregnancy proceeds perfectly normal and baby is healthy.

  121. I used to feel a little like you, being a natural mom and all. I shave to say that having an ultrasound at 8-12 is A VERY GOOD IDEA!!! They aren’t just confirming the pregnancy, a blood test does that. They’re making sure it isn’t ectopic. Which can cause death, so yeah, I’d want to know!

    Also, all these points are assuming you’re “low risk”. I was always considered low risk until my daughter died in my womb at 32 weeks, (8 months). My story is not anecdotal, if they had done an ultra sound when I want in complaining of pain they could have Checked her cord but they didn’t and she does hours later. I’ve heard countless stories where things could have been prevented if they’d done an ultrasound.

    To me, the unkown risk pales in comparison to the overwhelming and seemingly unending rewards.

    • So sorry, Lillian. That’s heartbreaking. Yes, for high-risk pregnancies, ultrasounds can be an important tool.

    • I do feel like you’re touching a bit on what Genevieve/Mama Natural is getting at with articles such as this, in that women need to advocate for their own medical care AND be heard by those in charge of their care. It seems like you knew something wasn’t right, but that your concerns were dismissed.
      I’m incredibly sorry for your loss. For doctors and hospitals, you’re just another patient, but each pregnancy and child/ren are individuals who are important and deserve to be cared for and informed. We all have to be thoughtful and conscious of the choices we make for the health of ourselves and those we care about. Women’s health care historically has been very hit or miss.
      I know that I can be kind of a pushover if I feel like someone is or should be an authority on a topic. In my case, it meant that I spent months before even becoming pregnant doing mounds of research on the choices I made for myself, my pregnancy, and my child.
      I am actually high-risk, since I have a large fibroid. Because of this, I had more ultrasounds than usual towards the end of my pregnancy. I know that my doctor’s were concerned for me, but they were also concerned about their own liability issues. I think I went along with a few more ultrasounds than were probably necessary, but it gave me a lot of peace of mind knowing that my child was safe and that everything was on track to deliver with no interventions. I weighed my concern over ultrasounds versus my concern of them forcing certain medicines or procedures on me unnecessarily during labor, when I might’ve been too tired or in pain to be able to make on the fly decisions about my care. I was lucky that my fibroid didn’t cause any problems and that I delivered my son without any interventions.
      I’m now pregnant again and will be going in for the first scan (around 8 weeks), the anatomy scan (around 20-22 weeks), and then maybe one closer to the end just to make sure everything is fine because I tend to be paranoid and I know I want to be fully confident that my body can once again go through labor intervention free without harming my child.
      That’s just my, long-winded, takeaway though.
      Best wishes.

      • Autism is NOT caused my ultrasounds. It is a genetic condition. It is also not a death sentence or something to be feared. Stop the fear mongering and misinformation. Love, an autistic adult who’s mother only had a single 20 week ultrasound when they were a fetus.

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