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FDA Warns Against Use of Ultrasound By Untrained Individuals

The FDA has warned against the unnecessary and untrained use of ultrasound imaging to take foetus selfies by individuals who do not have a medical background. As a matter of fact, companies have been set up to provide this ‘facility’ to pregnant women. While no evidence of harmful effects has been produced by experts, the FDA stresses the importance of only using the technology under medical supervision because of potential hazard.

In a world where the word “selfie” can be found in dictionaries, pregnant women feel the urge to have their unborn babies “photographed” the more so. Fortunately for them, the technique of ultrasound has enabled the capturing of foetus images. However, this technology has been taken for granted: individuals who are not medically trained have made accessible to the public commercial ultrasound facilities allowing for pregnant women to ‘take a snap’ of their babies without having to visit a doctor.

This practice that has become quite widespread is questionable though. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has, in fact, warned against what they call “keepsake ultrasounds”.

The FDA has reiterated its explanation of the ultrasound devices being designed to be used by trained medical personnel only. It stated that it “strongly discourages their use for creating fetal keepsake images and videos”. If the baby-selfie related procedures are not performed in a setting where medical professionals assist and direct them, they might constitute a threat to both mother and foetus. No evidence has been gathered to show clear-cut detrimental factors thereof. But, the FDA still highlights the need for cautious use of ultrasound.

An FDA biomedical engineer, Shahram Vaezy, affirmed:

Although there is a lack of evidence of any harm due to ultrasound imaging and heartbeat monitors, prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important. Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles (cavitation) in some tissues.

What is to be borne in mind is that ultrasound apparatuses are not the equivalent of cameras.

However, even back in 1994, several companies in the US were found to be selling them to parents. To make matters worse, they were being used by untrained individuals. The repeated warnings of the FDA finally led to some states in the US to pass laws forbidding the use of keepsake ultrasounds. But, the devices are still available for sale elsewhere.

The FDA’s advice is to better be safe than sorry.

When the product is purchased over the counter and used without consultation with a health care professional taking care of the pregnant woman, there is no oversight of how the device is used. Also, there is little or no medical benefit expected from the exposure,” said Vaezy. “Furthermore, the number of sessions or the length of a session in scanning a fetus is uncontrolled, and that increases the potential for harm to the fetus and eventually the mother.”

Vaezy added: ““Proper use of ultrasound equipment pursuant to a prescription ensures that pregnant women will receive professional care that contributes to their health and to the health of their babies.”


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