Ultrasound is used routinely for imaging in pregnancy worldwide. But, is it safe to expose a fetus to ultrasonic waves? Researchers have published a number of studies that show ultrasound having concerning effects on animal development; however, understanding how ultrasound affects human health requires further scientific research. In light of this, we MUST address 3 important safety shortcomings in the practice of fetal sonography to reduce the risk of harming our future children with excessive ultrasonic exposure:
1. Sonographers need to record more information about their scan sessions for epidemiologists to study. 2. A large number of defective ultrasound units are in clinical circulation, suggesting greater need for more frequent equipment maintenance. 3. Vanity prenatal ultrasounds are blatantly non-medically indicated use and are negligent of a baby's health - these should be strictly regulated or outright stopped until further research is performed. Addressing these 3 issues will help medical research progress, create technical jobs in healthcare, and protect the wellbeing of future children worldwide for generations to come.
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For more information, this page has links to a number of scientific papers. Or you can watch the YouTube series to be walked through some relevant scientific literature: Is Prenatal Sonography Safe? YouTube playlist
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THE THREE ISSUES, ELABORATED:
(1) More detailed medical records of sonogram sessions are needed for reliable epidemiology. Sonographers do not keep detailed records about ultrasound scans, and so researchers cannot make conclusive dose-response assessments about how ultrasound affects human health. This obstacle prevents us from knowing if ultrasound really is safe or not for humans to use during pregnancy. [Consider the concerns raised at the websites of: Dr. David Toms, Dr. Manuel Casanova, Ultrasound-autism.org, Alliance for Improvement of Maternity Services (AIMS)]
(2) Ultrasound equipment for prenatal Ob-Gyn use should be required to have more frequent routine maintenance by law. Simply using ultrasound devices detunes them similarly to musical instruments, and defective equipment lowers the machine's image quality. A unit not being properly calibrated can lead to more ultrasound exposure needed in order to make a diagnosis. Enforcing more frequent maintenance of ultrasound units would not only be prudent for safety, it would also promote engineering and tech jobs which could help the ailing economy. [Relevant citations: High incidence of defective equipment in circulation, Annual calibration is not sufficient]
(3) Vanity ultrasounds clinics encourage non-medical fetal ultrasound exposure and must be regulated, or even outright stopped (for now). Vanity clinics promote the most risky practices of fetal sonography: long, high definition movies; frequent exposures; lack of technical and/or medical background; improper equipment maintenance. Ultrasound for fetal use should be only performed by professionals trained in proper safety precautions and up-to-date with current research. [Relevant citations: Proliferation of Prenatal Sonography, Prenatal ultrasound alters normal mouse brain development, Low-intensity ultrasound energy applied to rat testes alters testosterone levels, Ultrasound increases cell division, Ultrasound sensitizes hearing of infants, Prenatal ultrasound alters sociability in mice possibly akin to autism, Prenatal ultrasound negatively affects mouse cognition]
** Please read the testimonials of scientists, practitioners, professionals, and parents whom have signed this petition and left comments:
Dr. Manuel Casanova, MD – Neuropathologist, autism researcher, founding member of the John Hopkins and National Institute of Mental Health pathological brain bank units, and now Gottfried and Gisela Kolb Endowed Chair in Outpatient Psychiatry and Professor of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology. The University of Louisville, Kentucky
“Ultrasound was deregulated and energy levels were increased without proper safety studies being performed. There is evidence that besides thermal and cavitation effects ultrasound may provide for redox and membrane permeability changes. A significant number of ultrasound transducers in clinical practice are defective and end users seem unknowledgeable about the safety margins of their equipment. Ultrasound is now being used far beyond the safety recommendations of imaging boards for non-risk cases. There should be more studies on this matter and the technique should be regulated to enforce safety concerns.”
Dr. Diana Mason, RN, PhD, FAAN – Rudin professor, emeritus of the American Journal of Nursing, and now Co-Director of the Hunter College Center for Health, Media, and Policy, www.centerforhealthmediapolicy.com. New York, New York.
”I'm concerned about the rise in autism, including with my extended family. First Do No Harm should be the mantra that we all adopt. I'm concerned about the proliferation of the perspective that fetal ultrasound is like a regular photo, when it's not. We must change public perceptions about the potential dangers of fetal ultrasound and call for more research immediately.”
Dr. John Chiles, MD – Radiologist. Raleigh, North Carolina
“As a radiologist I have been concerned about over utilization of imaging procedures and ultrasound in pregnancy is a prime example. A way of controlling this would be for insurance companies to pay for the equivalent of one ultrasound per pregnancy but the obstetrician could perform as many as he or she felt were necessary. Another way would be to increase the price for obstetric care which would include all the in-office ultrasounds.”
Dr. Reginold Moore, MD – Family medicine. Hickory, North Carolina
“If there is any possibility that prenatal ultrasound can be linked to the increasing problem with Autism Spectrum Disorders it should be researched further and practitioners using Ultrasound should be cautioned to consider the risks and benefits before performing. There may be a greater risk during the fetal developmental period (1st trimester) after which ultrasound is significantly safer and beneficial. Medicine needs these answers.”
Dr. William Brandon, PhD – Physicist. Pembroke, North Carolina
“We should always be suspect of "lucrative" medical procedures - particularly when supported through insurance policies. Consider this - all biological tissue in the region of ultrasound exposure vibrates at the frequency of the ultrasound wave, leading to a myriad of complex and potentially harmful side effects.”
Parrish Hirasaki, MSME - Engineer with experience in industrial heat and systems management, and web manager of http://www.ultrasound-autism.org/, Dickinson, Texas
“I am an engineer who is certain that overexposure during ultrasound is causing brain damage. It does in rats - why not humans?”
Nancy Evans, BS - Health science consultant. San Francisco, California
“Ultrasound exposes the brain of the developing fetus to heat, vibration, and high intensity sound. Prenatal ultrasound is being performed in unregulated non-medical settings (shopping mall boutiques selling "keepsake" sonograms). It is not a risk-free procedure and women need to know that.”
Cindy Sage, MA – SAGE Design. Santa Barbara, California
“One thing that should be halted is the now-routine use of ultrasound twice within two weeks to check for signs the fetus may have Downs syndrome. The neck is scanned twice... in two weeks... to gauge the neck thickness. Can you imagine the exposure to such a small area of the brainstem - it is entirely avoidable since there is a new and reliable blood test. Stop ultrasounds for this procedure.”
Laura Blumenstiel - Mother
"I have two children, and although my pregnancies were both high risk for various reasons (generally my health during pregnancy), I feel that the number of ultrasounds scheduled was excessive. I probably had close to 10 in my first pregnancy, and had at least two per week for the last two months of my second pregnancy. Scare tactics were used by my doctor any time I questioned the need for so many, including the claim that he needed to be "prepared" in case my babies were born with conditions that required immediate treatment. They were not. I genuinely believe that some OB's see high risk pregnancies as a cash cow. Certainly mine did."
Brenda Hinton - GREY LYNN, NEW ZEALAND
"Obstetric practices in NZ follow close on the heels of those in larger countries like the USA. Most women in NZ now have at least 4 ultrasound scans during their pregnancy with at least 2 of these being performed in the first trimester. In NZ most women access fully subsidized pregnancy/maternity care and those who pay privately for obstetric care still have their (usually much greater number of) scans publicly subsidized. The continuing increase in ultrasound scanning is greatly increasing the cost of maternity care to the NZ taxpayer with no commensurate improvement in outcomes. Like the rest of the developed world, where ultrasound is readily available, we are seeing an increase in autistic spectrum disorders and also things like tongue and lip tie. More regulation, research and consumer education is urgently needed. We hope the USA will lead the charge to ensure the safety of this overused technology."
Michelle Hughes - PFLUGERVILLE, TX
"As a CNM, I frequently have patients upset or disappointed that we don't do frequent US. I try to explain that US has proven effects on fetus, but it makes little impression on them, since no one has ever heard of this. I agree more research is needed, as well as mainstream education."