December 17, 2014 — The FDA has issued a Consumer Update to warn against “keepsake” ultrasound videos and the use of heartbeat monitors during pregnancy due to unknown long-term health effects.
Shahram Vaezy, Ph.D, an FDA biomedical engineer, warned:
“Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles (cavitation) in some tissues.”
The long-term health effects of cavitation are unknown. However, there is no medical benefit to a fetal keepsake video. The FDA acknowledged that fetal imagine can promote bonding between parents and a baby, but these opportunities are provided by routine prenatal ultrasound care.
The problem is that several companies in the United States are making “keepsake” videos from ultrasound imaging. Without a trained healthcare professional, there is no knowing how long these sessions will last, how many sessions will take place, or whether the equipment will be used properly.
The FDA noted that in some cases, fetuses were exposed to ultrasound for as long as an hour to get a video.
The FDA was also concerned about over-the-counter sales of Doppler ultrasound heartbeat monitors, which are used to listen to the heartbeat of a fetus. These devices should only be used by a healthcare professional or under their supervision.
Ultrasounds (also called “sonograms”) are prenatal tests that use high-frequency sound waves to create a picture of a baby in the womb. The test is exciting because it is the first time new parents get to “see” their baby and tell its gender.
Most women have an ultrasound in the second trimester (weeks 18-20) but some also get first-trimester ultrasounds before the 14th week of pregnancy.
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