The first ultrasound is one of the most exciting times in pregnancy. Most parents can’t wait for the opportunity to share their baby’s first pictures with family and friends. However, it is important to remember that an ultrasound is a medical imaging technique and should only be done under the supervision of medical professionals, such as your doctor and/or a trained ultrasound technician. “Keepsake” ultrasounds offered by commercial businesses are not recommended.
Ultrasound is the most commonly used tool for viewing a developing baby. Sound waves bounce off curves and shapes within your body and these patterns are then translated into images. Standard ultrasound creates a 2-D image of a developing baby. Some women have an ultrasound during the first trimester to confirm and date the pregnancy—this is called an early ultrasound. But not all providers offer this. Most doctors perform an ultrasound between 18 and 20 weeks. At this time your provider will check your baby’s heartbeat, muscle tone, movement and overall development.
Although it is always fun and exciting to see your unborn baby on the ultrasound monitor, it is very important to remember that this is a medical procedure. You may have seen places in a mall that offer “keepsake” 3-D or 4-D ultrasound pictures or videos for parents. While ultrasounds have been used for over 30 years and are considered safe for you and your baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine do not recommend these non-medical ultrasounds. The people doing them may not have medical training and may give you wrong or even harmful information.
In a recent consumer update regarding fetal keepsake images, the FDA warns that “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.” And although there is no evidence that ultrasound may cause harm to an unborn baby, there is also no medical benefit to exposing the baby to unnecessary ultrasound waves only for the purposes of keepsake images.
If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about when to schedule your ultrasound. He or she will be more than happy to give you pictures to take home with you. You can read more about the different types of ultrasound that your provider may recommend, when they are offered, and what information they may be able to provide here.