The Food and Drug Administration is, once again, warning pregnant women to stay away from medically unnecessary ultrasounds. The technology is supposed to be by prescription only and performed by a medical professional. But since the 1990s, commercial ultrasound businesses have offered their services as a keepsake, charging for up to an hour with the doppler and creating pictures, mugs, T-shirts and other items burnished with the fetal image.
There are no studies on the long-term consequences of frequent or long-lasting sonograms, the FDA warns. “Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles in some tissues,” Shahram Vaezy, FDA biomedical engineer, said in a statement issued by the FDA this week.
The FDA has warned against getting ultrasounds for non-medical reasons since the 1990s. The agency came out with a strongly worded statement against home use of sonogram machines after Tom Cruise announced he and his then pregnant fiancée, Katie Holmes, had purchased a machine for use during their daughter Suri's gestation. The California legislature went as far as passing a bill against the sale of ultrasound equipment to anyone other than healthcare providers (the bill was vetoed by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger).
But the FDA gets the attraction and acknowledged the draw of ultrasounds during this exciting time in a woman's or couple's life, but that they're best done under the supervision of a doctor.
"While FDA recognizes that fetal imaging can promote bonding between the parents and the unborn baby, 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," the statement said.