Fetal Doppler and Safety

The fetal Doppler–more commonly called an “ultrasound”–allows doctors and parents to take a peek at what’s inside the uterus. Doctors typically order an ultrasound only a few times throughout the pregnancy. More recently, for-profit organizations have started creating keepsake videos of the fetal ultrasound, including 3-D techniques that allow you to see what your baby will look like. Naturally, you may be concerned about the safety of a fetal Doppler.

What It Is

An ultrasound uses Doppler technology to produce an image of the baby growing inside your uterus. It sends sound waves into the uterus, which then bounce back from the baby. A computerized system translates this feedback into an image.

Risks Associated with Ultrasound

There are currently no risks associated with doing an ultrasound and doctors have been performing them for many years. However, there may be risks that doctors have not yet discovered.

Why Do an Ultrasound

Your doctor will perform the initial ultrasound to confirm your pregnancy and to check the fetal age. It’s important to get an accurate reading on the fetal age to track the proper stages of development and to perform diagnostic testing at the right time. An ultrasound can also show any physical abnormalities with the fetus, which can prepare parents for raising a special needs child. Later in pregnancy, a doctor might use an ultrasound to verify the position of the baby.

The ALARA Principle

According to the American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine, technicians should use the ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) principle when performing ultrasounds on pregnant women. Because there may be undiscovered risks with ultrasound, practitioners should use the lowest level of sound waves that they can, while still receiving an image.

Elective Ultrasounds

While it may be nice to receive a keepsake video of your ultrasound or catch a glimpse of what your baby is going to look like, the American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine points out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers elective ultrasound (those not ordered by your doctor) to be an “unapproved use of a medical device.”

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