A Window In... I'll Pass

I'm reaching the point in my pregnancy where nearly everyone asks, "So, do you know what you are having?" Although it's very satisfying to me, DH indicates that it may be less than kind to always answer with, "Hopefully it's a baby, but we aren't ruling out a shark." 

In any case, this question is almost always followed up with, "Oh, you didn't find out at your ultrasound?" and then a look of shock when I explain we haven't had an ultrasound.

In today's obstetric environment, it's absolutely shocking to most people that you could make it through a pregnancy without having a peek. Ultrasound, like so many of the other things that we do during pregnancy, is seen as so routine that no one gives it a second thought. In fact, most mamas I know love the chance to have an extra scan or two so they can get an extra peek at their baby.

We didn't have an ultrasound during our pregnancy with E, because it was never medically necessary. When my pregnancy continued past the 42 week point, we seriously discussed the need for an ultrasound, and were planning to make an appointment for the 30th of December, but then he showed up on the 28th. More than halfway through, we know this pregnancy is healthy and progressing normally, so I feel no need to have an ultrasound.

Somehow I think ultrasound gives people a false sense of security. Don't get me wrong, ultrasound definitely has its place. But in general it's a very overused technology, the dangers of which are just not known. The fact that ultrasound "studios" are popping up in strip malls and charging exorbitant fees for 9 dimensional shots of unborn babies is more than a little concerning.  The way my babies scamper away from the Doppler at each appointment, I feel certain they would blow a fetus-shaped hole through my belly if I subjected them to ultrasound waves. When I was fighting the battle of wills with the OB during my labor with E (you can read some about that here), one of the cards he pulled out was, "We have no idea how big this baby is, and an ultrasound at this stage couldn't accurately determine weight." Even with all the stress of the moment, I had to stop and laugh at him, because I know loads of women who have had late term ultrasounds, around the 39 or 40 week mark, and been coerced into induction or surgical birth because the never-failing ultrasound shows a big baby. (Had Dr. PainInMyAss decided to do an ultrasound, he would have seen an active, slender baby who weighed less than eight pounds and measured at the 50% for head circumference.)

We are often lulled into a false sense of security because a certain medical technology has been used for a long time and therefore must be safe. Let's remember, however, that x-rays of pregnant women were once routine. There are scads of medications that were routinely prescribed to women during pregnancy and labor over the past century, medications that were used for many years before it became obvious that they were doing more harm than good.

I won't make the claim that blasting our unborn children with ultrasonic sound waves damages them, because I don't have the proof of that. Here's what I know: our society has seen a dramatic increase in childhood disease, including behavioral issues and chronic diagnoses like ADD, ADHD, and autism. The rising rates of these diagnoses have paralleled the rising rates of ultrasound, vaccination, food additives, screen time, plastic exposure, and augmented, medically managed birth. It seems obvious to me that there must be some connection between the two. I live by the precautionary principle, which leads me to avoid things that can't be proven safe, especially when the benefits don't outweigh the risks. Unless there's a medical need, I'll avoid ultrasound. I'm not that interested in a grey scale picture of my baby looking like an alien anyway.

I posted this with caution, fearing I may alienate the rest of the population who peek into their uterus with regularity. I know very few mamas who have not had an ultrasound during their pregnancy, so I'm in the minority here. The truth is, there's magic in feeling your baby move and getting to know him or her that way. I've felt both of mine move before I even heard their little hearts race along with the Doppler. It's the sweetest and most organic feeling ever to know your baby and your baby's position with your own hands and your heart. I like to do things the "old school" way, and I love that my midwives can put their hands on my belly and map my baby, that I can do the same, and I have faith in that wisdom.

Marsden Wagner's Paper in Midwifery Today, 1999


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