The Truth About Baby Ultrasound

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.

Hmmm.

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 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 normalPalpating (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.

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 a 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 and 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.

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.

Even the FDA warns against 3D ultrasounds

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 chose 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?

References
  • http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/703501_3
  • http://www.cochrane.org/CD001451/PREG_routine-ultrasound-in-late-pregnancy-after-24-weeks-gestation-to-assess-the-effects-on-the-infant-and-maternal-outcomes
  • http://kellybroganmd.com/article/utrasound-risks-perils-of-peeking-into-the-womb/
  • http://chriskresser.com/natural-childbirth-iib-ultrasound-not-as-safe-as-commonly-thought/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8392263
  • http://www.vbac.com/increasing-your-odds-for-a-vbac-before-and-during-labor/
  • http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/ultrasound.asp
  • http://chriskresser.com/natural-childbirth-iia-is-ultrasound-necessary-effective-in-pregnancy/
  • http://www.fetaldopplerfacts.org/facts/ultrasound/fetal-doppler-ultrasound-safety.php
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107 Comments

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  1. 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.

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

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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!

  5. 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 and have also opted out of flu-vaccination.
    At this point I’m just going to monitor fetal movement closely and have faith that my body/baby are on the right track.

  6. 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.

  7. 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…

  8. 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.

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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 🙂

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!?

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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).

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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).

  24. 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!!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. “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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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!?

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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!

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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 🙂

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007058.pub3/abstract;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.

  50. 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.

  51. 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!

  52. 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

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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).

  56. 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 🙂

  57. 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?

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

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