After talking (in my earlier post) about the ultrasound I have each time I visit my obstetrician, I was asked if I was concerned about the potential health risks of such frequent scans. Most women, in a regular pregnancy, will have 2-3 scans unless issues arise or complications are diagnosed. I'm having one a month at present, and I assume if my doctor continues on in the same way I will have them more frequently as my appointments increase.
The simple answer is no, I'm not concerned about the health risks. While it's clear that little in depth research has been done on the long-term health issues associated to ultrasounds, I am comfortable with the research that has been done. From my reading, I'm satisfied that what I gain from these ultrasounds far outweighs the risks I am taking. To clarify, while I'm not having these ultrasounds for specific diagnostic services, I certainly get something out of them.
For me, the opportunity to look on a monitor, see and hear a heartbeat and wriggling baby is a huge psychological relief. It helps me to keep my anxiety in check. After miscarrying (and my generally far-from-optimistic outlook) previously and the earlier bleeding in this pregnancy, it is an effort for me to allow myself to relax and enjoy this process without becoming scared of what might happen or how things are progressing. As I leave my obstetrician's office after each visit I feel reassured and more able to allow myself to further attach to this bubble baby.
Clearly, there is no physical need for me to have these scans. The simple fact is that the benefits outlined above are, for me, vital. My mental health requires management in the same way that my physical health does, and I feel that this is a heavy weight on the side of 'worth it' vs. the risks. The commonly asked question by most people concerned over potential health issues is "why would you take any more risks than you have to just to see an image of your baby, there's no real benefit in doing so is there?" I have my answer to that question; yes, for me, there is benefit to how I'm managing this pregnancy.
The scans I have (besides the regular 12 week scan when checking for risks of Downs Syndrome) are less than five minutes long, in fact they are probably less than three minutes. My obstetrician doesn't attempt to diagnose anything from the scans other than whether the baby is in fact there, with a beating heart. She doesn't take the time to find a comprehensive angle and do show-and-tell, the purpose is not to give me an added bonus picture show. I'm satisfied that the potential risks as outlined in the reading I've done are not increased to a point I'm uncomfortable with in these short moments. As she herself explained at my first appointment, she has the equipment in her office and she likes to do a quick visual as a matter of routine. I'm sure if I requested that we stopped, she would support that choice, but the sense of well being I have after each appointment means I am happy to continue these quick scans.
I read an interesting post from a Canadian blogger in regards to the growing trend of ultrasounds-at-your-convenience and 3D ultrasounds. I've never been tempted to do a 3D ultrasound, mostly because I do see them as another commodity being sold to parents in the never ending marketing cycle. I'm also not concerned with how my baby looks, that's not what appeals to me about ultrasounds in general, and I don't see how a 3D ultrasound is anything other than a more realistic peeking device. I'm content to see hands, feet a head and a torso. If they're still there I don't need more detail.
By the way, I'm booked in for my full/proper 20 week ultrasound where a real ultrasound tech does a more detailed visual analysis of bubble baby next week, so be ready for me to do an about-face and tell you about how I need to see every detail I can and will not be satisfied until I do.