CTVNews.ca Staff Thursday, February 20, 2014
Expectant Canadian parents, eager to get the first glimpse of their growing baby-to-be, are being urged to avoid visiting commercial ultrasound clinics that offer keepsake images and videos.
In a joint policy statement, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Canadian Association of Radiologists point out there are a number of potential risks with ultrasounds performed for non-medical reasons.
Every ultrasound involves exposure the fetus to targeted energy, they note, and therefore carries a theoretical risk of some harm. But they add that there has never been any definitive evidence of diagnostic ultrasounds’ harmful effects to humans.
With Health Canada also recommending against the use of ultrasound for non-medical reasons, the groups state that “it could be considered unethical to perform these scans” for commercial or entertainment purposes only.
In non-medical ultrasound clinics, the groups say, there is no assurance of proper operator training or qualifications, or proper maintenance of technical safeguards, or standards for infection control.
“As a result, fetal energy exposure may not be appropriately monitored, and operators of the equipment may not be adequately trained to recognize fetal and placental abnormalities,” they write.
There are also other potential risks from the clinics, including the incorrect identification of fetal abnormalities, which would lead to unnecessary investigations and anxiety. There’s also a flipside risk in the potential for false reassurance that everything is “normal” with the fetus.
Finally, the groups warn against using ultrasound to learn the sex of the fetus solely for non-medical reasons.
That warning comes amid mounting concerns that some parents are having ultrasounds performed early, in the first trimester, to determine the sex of a fetus and to have it aborted if it is a girl.
A 2012 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal warned that Canada has become a “haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons.” The journal’s former interim editor has urged medical licensing bodies to withhold revealing the sex of the fetus to parents until after 30 weeks of pregnancy.
“With recent media coverage of nonmedical clinics performing gender determination in the first trimester,” the SOGC and CAR said they found it necessary to update their previous policy statement on fetal ultrasounds.