Ultrasound Machine

Risks and Safety

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This article involves the risks and safety factors relating to the prenatal 3D ultrasound machine.

Like a great number of things, the safety of ultrasound technology is dependent upon the level of exposure. Studies of the lower exposures prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s are somewhat encouraging. But since 1993, accepted exposure levels have increased considerably, and not enough significant research has been undertaken to determine the effects of higher doses.
In the meantime, the use of prenatal ultrasound continues to develop in what one consumer activist calls “the biggest uncontrolled experiment in history.”


In 2000, around 2.7 million women in the United States of America received prenatal sonograms, equating to around 67 percent of pregnant women - that is a lot of ultrasound machine use.

The majority of doctors find believe ultrasound is an acceptable way of determining due dates and detecting possible abnormalities. It is now commonplace for parents to take home a 2D picture of their unborn child and this has become somewhat of a ritual.

Manufacturers are now pushing for general acceptance for a much more extensive new ritual: a 4D (full motion 3D) movie of the unborn baby, supplied by “fetal portrait” studios in shopping malls. These movies are captured on DVD using top of the range ultrasound equipment, for example the Voluson 730 made by General Electric.

GE Ultrasound Machine

A recent General Electric TV advert actually promotes these videos directly to expectant parents, stating, “When you see your baby for the first time on the new GE 4D ultrasound system, it really is a miracle.”

With offers like this on the table, what pregnant woman could resist?

GE’s website shows links to commercial facilities where the new developments are accessible. With names like “Womb with a View” and “Peek-a-Boo,” these businesses place a great deal of advertisements in parents’ magazines and on the Internet, offering a range of packages, from a basic 2D ultrasound video ($75) to a supreme package that includes a 20-minute 4D video set to music and stored on DVD, a set of wallet photographs, and a set of larger photographs that can be framed ($285).

Not surprisingly the videos are in great demand. Seeing their unborn baby is a thrilling and comforting experience for many parents. British doctor Campbell writes, “Both maternal and paternal reaction to the moving 3D image is something we have not previously encountered. I have seen fathers kiss the screen or, more appropriately, their partner’s abdomen in an ecstasy of recognition and pleasure.”

Ultrasound Machine Safety?

Through their websites, providers offer many reassurances that using ultrasound to view unborn infants is completely risk free. One confidently states, “Extensive studies over 30 years have found that ultrasound has not been shown to cause any harm to mother or baby.” Another says, “There has never been a harmful effect shown by the use of ultrasound. Large numbers of women have many ultrasounds while pregnant with no ill effect on the baby.” Yet another: “Thousands of studies have been made. Nothing has surfaced yet that indicates any harmful effects in the use of ultrasound on animals or on humans.”

However, whilst businesses constantly aim to reassure their customers, government health officials and professional medical associations issue warnings.

In 1999, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) released the following statement:

The AIUM strongly discourages the non-medical use of ultrasound for psychosocial or entertainment purposes. The utilization of 2 dimensional (2D) or 3 dimensional (3D) ultrasound machine to only see the fetus, get a picture of the fetus, or determine the gender without a medical reasoning is inappropriate and against responsible medical practice.

Continue to part two...

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