More Women are Getting More Ultrasound Scans than Ever Before – But Is It Safe?

It’s standard for mums-to-be to have ultrasound scans at 12 and 20 weeks – some might have more if there’s queries on mother or baby’s health.


The fact that, for most women, they’ll only get to see their bubs twice before the long nine months is up can be really difficult to deal with; anxieties and fears compound when you don’t have immediate access to see if your child is developing according to schedule.

That’s why more and more parents are opting to pay to have private sonographers provide them with another peek at baby. The idea is totally tempting, too – the gestational period can feel like an eternity when you’re waiting to meet your lil’ bundle.

But medical experts have called for just one or two ultrasounds in the 80 per cent of pregnancies that are low-risk and uncomplicated – stating there is no justification for frequent scans in those women.

An ultrasound image is created by sound waves bouncing off the foetus, picking up the reflections and converting them into what you see on the screen. The benefits are obvious; they give a more accurate estimation of conception and due dates, and, most importantly, they can pick up on abnormalities and potential complications. Research has found they can even help mother-baby bonding.

In the US alone, the average number of pregnancy scans undergone by women has risen by 92 per cent since 2004. Only the advent of private ultrasounds can account for this dramatic increase. Yet the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says scans should be used “only when clinically indicated, for the shortest amount of time and with the lowest level of acoustic energy compatible with an accurate diagnosis”.

Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography’s Dr Phillip J Bendick, states mums-to-be should be explicitly told they only need one or two scans in average low-risk pregnancies. “The public needs to be made aware that if you’re pregnant, you don’t drink alcohol, you don’t smoke and you don’t need to have an ultrasound at every doctor’s visit,” he says.

There’s the issue of compulsivity behind multiple scans. Plenty preggers women are sneaking in extra scans to assuage the anxieties surrounding pregnancy, although it doesn’t always ease the worries; only once baby is in your arms do you breathe a sigh of relief – and even then, the sleepless nights don’t stop there.

Ultimately, pregnancy – and parenthood – should be approached with the philosophy of balance. Eat well, avoid the junk, stress less, and avoid the urge to splash cash on the extraneous.

And anyway, those grainy, monochromatic blurs are nothing compared to the real thing…just you (wait) and see, Mummy.