There is no doubt that over the last few generations, vast amounts of research has been done in the area of obstetrics; modern medicine seems to be able to work miracles when it comes to the care and safety of high-risk mothers and babies, both during and after pregnancy. Babies born 3 months early have a 60% – 90% survival rate, whereas they would most certainly die without modern medical intervention. Because of these improved fetal and maternal survival rates, it seems that it is not politically correct to question whether we may be intervening too much in the world of obstetrics. Just because we have the technology for prenatal intervention, should we really be using it on every pregnant woman in the country?
One example is the overuse of ultrasound during pregnancy. There is no doubt that ultrasound can be a useful diagnostic tool during pregnancy. It can alert a doctor to potential complications, such as placenta previa. It can also be used to determine if the baby has birth defects, which some parents may want to know before the baby is born. However, do we really need to know the exact age of the fetus? Do we really need to know the baby’s gender? Do we really need to have 5 pictures of the baby in the baby book before he’s born? Do we really need a DVD of our baby in utero? I know lots of women who have taken extreme caution during pregnancy to do everything right. They drank lots of water, avoided soft cheese, didn’t drink alcohol, passed on the sushi, and left the skis in the garage all winter. But they thought nothing of having 5 or 6 ultrasounds during the pregnancy. In each case, the ultrasound machine would bounce high-frequency sound waves off their babies for up to 40 minutes at a time. Some women have told me that they loved seeing the ultrasounds so much that they wished they could have one every week!
I am in no way diminishing the importance of ultrasound as a diagnostic tool. I just think that we’ve gotten a little carried away with it. It’s not a toy, and should not be used as such. Even if there’s only a tiny chance that excessive ultrasounds could be detrimental to a developing fetus, is it really a chance that we need to be taking?