How Safe is That Fetal Keepsake Ultrasound?

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There’s a certain excitement that fills a couple’s life when they’re expecting a baby. As the child’s due date approaches, the sound of the baby’s heartbeat, the image on the ultrasound technician’s monitor, every little fetal kick the mother feels are all experiences that parents treasure.

Ultrasound imaging is the most common medical imaging procedure employed during a pregnancy. The use of the technology helps health care professionals to determine if everything is going well. But there’s also been a rise in the use of ultrasound imaging technology outside of the health care environment: across the U.S. one can find commercial enterprises that offer parents-to-be a fetal “keepsake” ultrasound memory.

How safe, however, are these keepsake ultrasounds? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a Consumer Update warning parents to avoid the use of ultrasound imaging technology for the sake of creating keepsake videos or images.

While there is currently a lack of evidence as to any harm which might occur as a result of ultrasound imaging, the FDA notes that it’s important that ultrasounds should only be done for medical purposes, based on a prescription, and by trained ultrasound technicians.

According to Shahram Vaezy, an FDA biomedical engineer, ultrasound imaging technology can have certain effects, such as a slight heating of tissues. In some cases, the technology can also produce small bubbles in certain tissues. The long-lasting effects of these occurrences is not known. One issue is that some commercial enterprises may use the ultrasound machine for as long as an hour in order to produce the ultrasound keepsake video. There are also no controls over how many sessions take place, nor are there any requirements concerning the proper operation of the machinery.

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