An ultrasound device shows the images of inside body using high-frequency sound waves. Ultrasounds are very exciting to expectant moms during pregnancy because they want to know if the baby is there and also t know the sex of the baby. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG), one to two scans is recommended per low –risk pregnancy. This is under the consideration that low-risk pregnancies consist 75% of all pregnancies.
Are too many Ultrasounds Bad for the Baby?
According to a research conducted by The Wall Street Journal, an average of 5.2 ultrasounds was given by doctors per delivery. This is way too above the ACOG’s recommended number of scans per low-risk pregnancy. Only high-risk pregnancies require frequent scans. High-risk pregnancies are those of moms –to-be with conditions like growth restricted fetuses, high blood pressure, and lupus and also type2 diabetes.
Ultrasounds may be safe only if conducted by the qualified physician and also if conducted as recommended. However, ultrasounds might be harmful if they are done by less skilled physicians and hence putting both the expectant mom and their baby at a great risk.
Side Effects of Ultrasounds on a Baby
Dr. Sarah Buckley’s has explained the effects of ultrasounds on a baby in her book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering which includes the following:-
Acoustic streaming: A shearing force at the surface of the cell is caused by a jet of fluid which is created by the ultrasound waves. This in turn changes cell permeability and might have adverse effects on prenatal and post natal development both at early and late stages.
Heating: Doppler ultrasounds function by using continuous waves unlike other ultrasounds which might use pulsed waves. This makes them cause heating in the fetus’s brain at significantly high heat levels and thus a greater chance of having birth defects or a child with abnormal development. The level of heating is however dependent on the intensity of the device, time of exposure and whether the device is frequently moved or held constantly.
Might have effects on child’s growth and weight: Babies who had more than two scans tended to weigh less and were shorter when measured as compared to those who only had two scans at 12 weeks and 18 weeks. This is according to a research conducted on over 2700 women in a randomized clinical trial which split the women into two and gave one group only 2 scans and the other group 5 scans.
Delayed speech: A research showed that children who had high exposure to ultrasounds had delayed speech compared to those who had none. This is based on a formal language evaluation conducted on 72 children in a case-control study.
Is Ultrasound Safe for Adults?
Adverse effects on adults exposed to ultrasound waves include;
- Prenatal death
- Delayed speech development
- Premature ovulation
How Many Scans Are Safe During Pregnancy
ACOG recommends 2 scans at 12 weeks and 18 weeks to determine whether the pregnancy is viable and to screen the health of the baby as well as its anatomy respectively. It is therefore advisable to only have the recommended one to two scans unless instructed otherwise or when necessary since they are much safer.