3D Ultrasounds gaining popularity and controversy

3D Ultrasounds gaining popularity and controversy

One of the biggest thrills of being pregnant is seeing your baby for the first time.

Improving technology is now giving parents a much clearer view of their little one through 3D ultrasounds.

But doctors and the FDA are warning this may be a bad choice for the parents and the baby.

26-year-old Donquesha Williams got an ultrasound at a mall, in a place called Meet Your Baby.

"These are going to go in my photo album. I get to actually see him, like you know, so I'm excited and everything," said Williams.

Meet Your Baby is one of a growing number of facilities offering 3D fetal images of unborn children as keepsakes.

Michael Horan is the owner.

"We use the same machine as the doctor. Our techs spend a little more time to get a more enjoyable session out of it," Horan said.

And more time is part of what the FDA and some doctors are concerned about. While ultrasounds are considered safe, they do raise the temperature of exposed tissue and can even create small bubbles known as cavitation.

"I know that they are exciting but I don't think women should abuse the medical technology for their entertainment purposes," says Dr. Rebecca Brightman, an OB/GYN.

In fact, the FDA released a consumer update on the practice:

"The long-term effects of tissue heating and cavitation are not known. Therefore, ultrasound scans should be done only when there is a medical need."

And regarding ultrasound machines, the FDA has this to say: 

"They are not intended for over-the-counter sale or use, and the FDA strongly discourages their use for creating fetal keepsake images and videos."

The appeal of 3D ultrasounds is obvious. They give mothers-to-be an uncanny picture of their unborn child, a far cry from the original chalky, black and white and often hard to discern pictures produced by 2D ultrasounds.

"I felt emotionally connected in the 2D, but I almost cried here," said another mom-to-be.

"It's a bonding experience," says Evelyn Orozco.

Orozco owns another company called 3D Imaging Services. She has three branch offices with plans for a fourth.

While she performs diagnostic ultrasounds for a variety of medical conditions, as her website shows, 3D prenatal images are the big sell.

"All of a sudden it's not a black and white. You see the features. You see a baby's face. And the biggest thing here is the nose. Everybody talks about the nose. Whose nose is that? Is it daddy's nose? Is it mommy's nose?" she says.

Some medical professionals worry 3D ultrasounds could give women a false sense of security

"She may feel oh, I've gone to the mall, I've gone to one of these outposts where I can have an ultrasound done and everything seems to be fine so I'm in great shape. And on the other hand, a woman may go for a vanity ultrasound where they may detect an abnormality and there isn't a physician or a professional on site who can explain the abnormality that may have been detected at that point in time," says Dr. Brightman.

Orozco says she requires all of her clients to be under the care of an OB/GYN.

"This does not replace anything that your doctor is sending you for. The biggest thing I tell everybody is just make sure you drink plenty of water and 'that's a great question for your doctor'."

Connecticut has banned the use of prenatal ultrasounds for any non-medical use. But it's important to note that ultrasounds are not dangerous. If done properly and under a doctor's care, they are an important tool in prenatal care.

Click here for more information on 3D ultrasounds.

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