FDA has its reasons for being the fetal-ultrasound party pooper

The FDA says ultrasound can heat tissues and is a medical device, not a party toy

It’s not clear to me why parents would feel the need to bond with their future baby via fetal portraits and prenatal ultrasound parties. Bonding generally just happens, and it’s especially likely to happen among the parents who are this avid about it.

Commercial ultrasound parties are the hot thing for parents-to-be who want a nice long look at the fetus, a chance to guess whether those are Mom’s cheeks or Uncle’s nose. The parents often bring extended family and friends, serving drinks and even planning the climax of the party — the “gender reveal,” when the baby’s sex is determined and announced. The services cost from $100 to $300.

Some people scoff at these as TMI moments; I’d be more  inclined to say scan and let scan, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says otherwise. Ultrasounds are not toys or party equipment, the agency wants expectant parents to understand. Though no one has been harmed as far as the agency knows, ultrasound can heat tissues and cause tiny bubbles to form. As a result, it says, unnecessary scanning should be seen as just that. Unnecessary.

Two concerns seem foremost to the agency. One is that technicians in commercial ventures might be less well trained and there would be less oversight of their operations. The other is that, because parents might want a more leisurely view of a particular feature, the technician might keep the device in one place longer than is considered advisable. Medical ultrasounds generally take a few minutes; keepsake ultrasounds often last 20 minutes to an hour.

The FDA warned against these keepsake ultrasounds almost 10 years ago, threatening to seize machines that weren’t being used for medical purposes.  That apparently hasn’t happened. Connecticut bans ultrasounds that aren’t medically necessary. This might not be a bad thing. Yes, there are no known cases of fetal harm, but neither is this in the “known to be perfectly safe” category.

Besides, expectant parents could get a lot of cute baby rompers for that kind of money.  

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World