Keepsake’ Ultrasounds Should Be Avoided by Expecting Parents

Women's Health Update

A 3D or 4D ultrasound can be tempting for any pregnant woman and her family. Being able to see a clear image of the newest addition before the birth may add to the excitement and anticipation of meeting the new baby. However, an ultrasound that is performed solely for entertainment purposes (“keepsake ultrasound”) should be discouraged. 

Handheld Doppler ultrasound heartbeat monitors also offer an exciting option, giving families the ability to share the special moment of hearing their baby’s heartbeat.

Having these types of ultrasounds has become popular. Many storefronts – including pregnancy spas – with the equipment are offering them without a prescription, oftentimes in strip mall, in shopping malls, and in private in-home businesses.

In response, federal agencies are advising against these services because, while these ultrasounds can be a great bonding experience, the machines are medical instruments that should only be operated by medical professionals in medical settings. “Keepsake ultrasounds” do not constitute a complete evaluation of the fetus.  

The Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA) recently advised against visiting businesses offering casual “keepsake” ultrasounds. 

Families should not have ultrasounds for images or heartbeat without a prescription and without a health care professional. Prenatal ultrasounds should only be done if there is a medical need for it, according to the FDA.

The administration added that ultrasound imaging equipment and heartrate monitors should not be sold over-the-counter. 

The FDA shared several concerns about businesses offering keepsake ultrasounds and heartbeat recordings, warning that:

  • A mother might incorrectly believe she does not need to visit a doctor for prenatal care because she has had a 3D or 4D ultrasound at a business.
  • Mothers should not risk prolonged ultrasound exposure for a procedure that has no medical benefit, such as a keepsake ultrasound or fetal heartbeat monitoring. 
  • There is no guarantee that someone who is not a medical professional will operate the equipment properly.
  • Though there is no evidence of ultrasound imaging or heartbeat equipment harming a fetus, there is some concern about long term effects. An ultrasound can slightly heat the tissue and cause small bubbles called cavitation. Researchers do not know the long term effects the heating and cavitation can have on a baby.
  • Ultrasounds and Doppler monitors are used to gauge the health of the baby. If a problem is discovered during a keepsake session, anyone who is not a trained medical professional may not recognize the issue or know what to do next.

Ultrasound imaging is one of the most commonly used tools in prenatal care and is considered beneficial when done in the right setting for the right reason.

“Proper use of ultrasound equipment pursuant to a prescription ensures that a woman will receive professional care that contributes to her health and the health of her fetus,” stated the FDA. 

For more information about keepsake ultrasounds, talk with your doctor or visit find a physician.