NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 30, 2005

Although consumer demand for keepsake ultrasound photographs is growing rapidly, most, if not all, physicians say that for safety reasons, ultrasound should not be performed in malls and other commercial settings.

  • Experts are concerned that Doppler or color Doppler ultrasound used during the first trimester might interfere with fetal organogenesis and that some women may have keepsake scans performed too frequently, increasing the risk of harm.
  • Unpublished evidence from animal studies at Yale University indicates that ultrasound can disrupt normal movement of cells through the brains of unborn mice; however, the relevance of the findings for humans is unclear.

Although there is currently no independent, confirmed evidence of harm from diagnostic medical sonography, such effects could be identified in the future. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) notes that according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, ultrasound machines are prescription devices that should be used only for medical purposes and with a physician's order. The FDA has issued vigorous warnings against nonmedical uses of ultrasound and though it rarely happens, the agency can seize machines used without a prescription.

Advocates of keepsake ultrasound in medical settings say it is a tool that helps soon-to-be parents develop a connection with their unborn child and may facilitate parents' compliance with medical advice, which improves health outcomes for the mother and child.

Source: Rebecca Voelker, "The Business of Baby Pictures: Controversy Brews Over "Keepsake" Fetal Ultrasounds," Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 293, No. 1, January 5, 2005.

For JAMA abstract:


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