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Less Use of Fetal Ultrasounds in Pregnancy Recommended

September 24, 2016
Plain English Version
Ultrasound scan of the fetus at 20 weeks.

Ultrasound scan of the fetus at 20 weeks.

Ultrasounds have many uses. Health workers use them to view the heart, blood vessels, kidney, liver and other organs. Its most popular use is looking at the fetus of a pregnant woman.

Researchers say the use of fetal ultrasound scans for pregnant women has skyrocketed.

In 2014, fetal ultrasounds averaged 5.2 per delivery. This is up 92 percent increase from 2004. Some women report getting scans every time they visit the doctor while they are pregnant.

What is the right number? The number is two for low-risk pregnancies. About 80 percent of all pregnancies are considered low-risk. One fetal ultrasound should be around the 12th week of pregnancy. The second should be around the 20th week. Some doctors recommend only one test around the 12th week.

Why are there now so many fetal ultrasound scans? Experts say some doctors are not up-to-date on the recommendations found in current medical journals.

Today’s ultrasounds are more powerful than they were 20 years ago. Doctors are uncertain about what harm they may cause.

Multiple fetal ultrasounds can lead to false alarms, such as overestimating the size of the head of the fetus. This in turn may lead to greater use of caesarean-section deliveries.

 Multiple ultrasounds can lead to false alarms. They can lead to overestimating the size of the head. This in turn may lead to the greater use of caesarean deliveries.

Doctors tell pregnant women to avoid alcohol, hot tubs, and stress. They do not mention possible problems that may arise from too many ultrasounds.

The benefits of fetal ultrasounds are proven. They can identify problems in the pregnancy.  In high-risk pregnancies, they are very important.

The benefits of fetal ultrasounds are proven. They can identify problems that may increase risk. They are crucial in high-risk pregnancies.

Another worry is that images of the fetus have become part of social networking. They are becoming “souvenirs” of the pregnancy.

Source: The Wall Street Journal July 17, 2015

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