Becoming a mother is, undoubtedly, one of the most precious moments of your life.
You are filled with the joy of welcoming a new life to the world. But there are quite a few things to take care of as well.
That includes maintaining a healthy diet, seeing your ob-gyn regularly, following a healthy lifestyle, avoiding unnecessary medications, etc.
Among the various important decisions that you have to take during your pregnancy, having or not having an ultrasound is an important one.
As you must already know, ultrasounds are commonly used during the different trimesters of pregnancy in order to determine the health and development of the baby.
The process has been in vogue for years now and most doctors would suggest getting one or more ultrasounds during your entire pregnancy.
However, in the recent times, there has been a growing concern regarding whether it is good to have an ultrasound done or whether it would be best to leave things as it is.
Studies and researches have been conducted to scrutinize the various benefits and risks of ultrasounds during pregnancy and several more are going on.
Though there is still an ongoing debate as to whether a pregnant woman should undergo an ultrasound, several of risks and benefits have already been determined.
Let’s take a look at them one by one:
Benefits of an ultrasound
A common reason why many people prefer to have an ultrasound is to know whether the baby would be a boy or a girl.
Though it is not medically necessary to know the gender of a child before its birth, many parents want to know this to put an end to the anticipation.
Moreover, knowing your to-be born child’s gender can help you plan things in the best way possible.
As such, most parents prefer to do an ultrasound.
Growth and anatomy scans
Doctors usually suggest ultrasounds in order to perform both anatomy and growth scans on the unborn child.
These two processes are important to ensure that the pregnancy is developing normally and to diagnose defects or health defects that may have developed in a child.
Anatomy scans are usually helpful in determining problems like Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, single umbilical artery, etc. that require special treatment during pregnancy and after the birth of the child.
Anatomy scans are also helpful in determining bone defects in the fetus.
Likewise, the growth scans help the doctor to determine whether the progress of the pregnancy is normal and whether there is continuous development of the fetus.
This helps in the identification of issues like Down’s syndrome, SUA, IUGR, etc. which caused stunned or abnormal growth of the fetus.
Identification of chromosomal abnormalities
Chromosomal abnormalities present at birth can lead to impairments, abnormal growth, low life expectancy, and much more.
Many of these defects can be identified while the baby is still in the womb with the help of an ultrasound and this helps the parents to decide what they exactly want to do.
Some may want to abort while others may want to prepare themselves to ensure that the child can have all the support it will need after birth.
Whatever may the decision be, ultrasound can seriously help the parents make a wise choice.
Apart from the major benefits mentioned above, ultrasounds can also help in determining twins, placenta previa, ectopic pregnancy, monitoring heart beat of the unborn child, etc.
Risks of ultrasounds
Though carrying out one or more ultrasounds during the pregnancy has many benefits, it comes with certain downsides or risks as well.
The first and most risk that ultrasound may pose to pregnant women is their inappropriate use.
Believe it or not, though ultrasound technology has progressed a lot, there are not many strict rules imposed on the clinics that offer the facility.
As such, there is often a high chance that the person carrying out the ultrasound test may not be a professionally trained doctor and this may lead to inept use of the technology which is harmful for everyone, more so for pregnant women.
Ultrasound causes an increase in the temperature in the bones and tissues where it is being conducted.
Though a rise of about 1.8 F – 2.7 F is usually safe for the developing fetus, continuous exposure to higher temperatures for more than a few seconds is considered to be unsafe for the fetus.
It has been shown in a study on mice that this could lead to brain hemorrhage in utero and the same can be linked to humans.
That apart, the excess heat can also lead to developmental deformities in the fetus.
False positives and false negatives
The results of ultrasound are not always accurate.
There is a percentage chance of error in the prediction of abnormalities and health issues in the child.
As such, it may so happen that an ultrasound may fail to indicate an anomaly though one may exist.
As such, the parents may not be able to know about the abnormality until the child is born or much after.
There may also be cases of false positives wherein the ultrasound may indicate an abnormality which may not at all be present.
This may cause unnecessary stress to the parents and lead to unnecessary diagnostic tests on the fetus which may be harmful.
Excess heat leads to the formation of air pockets or bubbles in the fetal tissues.
These air pockets vibrate and later collapse. This is known as cavitation.
Though studies on cavitation and its impact in fetal growth and development are still going on, researchers are of the opinion that many defects may actually occur due to cavitation.
This may include lung collapse, hearing impairments, etc.
Further researches and studies are being conducted to determine the extent to which ultrasounds may affect an unborn child.
Till the time definite conclusions are being arrived at, it is best that the use of ultrasounds is kept to a minimum during pregnancy.