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FDA discourages mothers against 3-D ‘keepsake’ ultrasounds

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Ultrasounds have come a long way in recent years — and there’s nothing like seeing a 3-D image of your child before he, or she, is born.

Although ultrasound imaging is the most widely used medical imaging method during pregnancy, the FDA strongly discourages their use for creating fetal keepsake images and videos, according to a recent study.

Fetal ultrasound imaging provides real-time images of the fetus. Doppler fetal ultrasound heartbeat monitors are hand-held ultrasound devices that let you listen to the heartbeat of the fetus. Both are prescription devices designed to be used by trained health care professionals.

“Although there is a lack of evidence of any harm due to ultrasound imaging and heartbeat monitors, prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important,” says Shahram Vaezy, Ph.D., an FDA biomedical engineer. “Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles (cavitation) in some tissues.”

Fetal keepsake videos are controversial because there is no medical benefit gained from exposing the fetus to ultrasound. FDA is aware of several enterprises in the U.S. that are commercializing ultrasonic imaging by making fetal keepsake videos.

While FDA recognizes that fetal imaging can promote bonding between the parents and the developing fetus, such opportunities are routinely provided during prenatal care. In creating fetal keepsake videos, there is no control on how long a single imaging session will last, how many sessions will take place, or whether the ultrasound systems will be operated properly.

On the other hand, Veazy says, “Proper use of ultrasound equipment pursuant to a prescription ensures that a woman will receive professional care that contributes to her health and to the health of her fetus.”

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