Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is echography safe ?

December 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles

Echography is a tool used by physicians and other specialists to monitor the evolution of pregnancy. But is echography absolutely necessary, and is it safe for the fetus?
Echography is a standard procedure for all pregnant women in most industrialized countries.  It is used to monitor the pregnancy but also to detect potential problems, such as ectopic pregnancy, cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine tumors, endometriosis or abnormalities in the woman or in the fetus. Echography can confirm the number of embryos, fetal age and weight, the location of the placenta, the quantity of amniotic fluid, and it can even diagnose serious birth defects in the unborn child.  In case of amniocentesis, echography helps determine the exact location of the fetus, thereby facilitating insertion of the needle used to collect a little amniotic fluid.

Echography is an imaging technique relying on ultrasound.  Ultrasounds are sent within a perimeter defined by a device. This device then receives echoes from obstacles it encounters. These echoes are processed electronically to provide a fairly accurate picture of the unborn baby. It should be noted that echography is not used only in obstetrics. It also serves to detect other health problems such as tumors or cysts. The ultrasonic frequency can be modulated depending on the sharpness of the desired image.

Used for medical purposes by a trained professional, echography is safe for the fetus, since the time of exposure to ultrasound is limited.   Echography is not painful, neither for the mother nor the child.  However prolonged exposure to ultrasounds for cosmetic purposes is not desirable for the baby. For example some companies will offer expectant parents a souvenir picture, sometimes in 3d to show baby from all sides and in all its glory. After all, what a beautiful memory to keep!  During an echography the ultrasound beam is constantly moved around the baby to get only the diagnostic information deemed necessary. The fetal exposure to ultrasound is extremely short.  To produce a souvenir video of 30 minutes or more however, it may be necessary to expose the fetus to continuous ultrasounds (profile, genitals, face). This unnecessary extended exposure, performed strictly for mercantile purposes and bringing nothing more on the medical point of view, could have consequences on the fetus.  The lack of scientific data on this type of non-medical exposure does not rule out risks to the unborn child. Although Echography performed for diagnostic purpose shows no negative effects, there may be a potential risk to the fetus when ultrasounds are misused.

In conclusion, medical echography performed by a trained professional is extremely useful, even essential to the doctor.  It can be used to prevent real problems, and to tightly monitor the smooth running of pregnancy. Beyond the medical aspect, you must carefully consider using echography as a mere mean to have a souvenir.

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