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Prenatal Portrait Studios

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
What do you think of it? Do you support it or reject it.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/03/27....ap/index.html

FDA warns prenatal portrait studios

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- Shelly Bunker's due date is months away, but in an upscale shopping mall office last week, tucked among the hair salons and art galleries, she watched her baby boy appear to smile, yawn and wave from inside her womb.

"You can kind of see his personality too," said the beaming father, Ben Bunker, watching the image of his unborn son captured by a bath of ultrasound waves. "He's pretty active."

Despite safety warnings about so-called entertainment ultrasounds from the Food and Drug Administration, the Bunkers -- she's a dance teacher, he's finishing law school -- are among thousands of parents eager to take advantage of this latest trend in baby pictures.

Ultrasounds have been an important part of routine prenatal care for millions of women since the 1960s and have proven to be a safe diagnostic tool when done by licensed medical professionals within strict scientific guidelines.

In the past two years, something quite different has emerged -- dozens of unregulated ultrasound centers have opened for business around the United States with cute names like Fetal Fotos, Prenatal Peek and Womb With A View.

Operating without medical guidelines or standards, they charge about $200 a session, using $100,000 high-density ultrasound machines that provide a much clearer picture -- chubby cheeks, hair, even muscular definition -- than the two-dimensional scans most doctors use.

The FDA shut down several ultrasound studios about 10 years ago. Due to the resurgence of the business, Deputy Director Dr. Kimber C. Richter said the agency is now considering regulatory action, which typically can mean warning letters, injunctions, fines or seizures.

The agency says it's illegal to administer ultrasound without a prescription or to promote the device for nonmedical use.

Some state laws also say that operating an ultrasound machine without the proper credentials is "practicing medicine without a license." To date, no state medical boards have taken action.

Some franchise owners say they are operating legally because doctors own and run their businesses. Others, like Fetal Fotos, do initial "limited medical" scans before the entertainment portion begins. Some also have gotten doctors to issue a blanket prescription for their machine, hoping this gets around the requirement that each patient have a prescription.

Most companies also issue disclaimers, saying they don't provide prenatal care and are an optional service.

GE Medical Systems, a leading seller of ultrasound equipment, said in a statement to The Associated Press that it "does not support the use of the 4D equipment for nonmedical purposes."

But in its advertisements, GE seems to be selling only the great pictures it produces.

One ad plays the song, "The first time ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes" as a pair of tearful, excited parents watch their baby's image on a monitor. The announcer then says: "When you see your baby for the first time on the new GE 4D ultrasound system, it really is a miracle."

While many doctors and midwives refer patients to the 4-D centers for additional, fun peeks at their babies, some warn against it. The Bunkers said their doctor told them to "go for it."

"If doctors do it, it can't be that bad," said Ben Bunker.

Several medical groups disagree.

Doctors with the Society of Medical Diagnostic Sonography, the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology stress that ultrasound is a medical procedure, not a photo opportunity. What if an untrained, unregulated scanner finds a malformation? What if uninsured women depend on ultrasound centers rather than doctors?

Even worse, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine warns that although there are no confirmed biological effects from prenatal ultrasounds, possible problems could be identified in the future, especially because these unregulated scans are longer, use more energy and can be more frequent.

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce diagnostic images of developing babies.

Two-dimensional ultrasound has been around since the 1960s, helping doctors diagnose birth defects, fetal growth and position, and more. Millions of fetal ultrasounds are done each year, and more than 30 years of research and practice have found them to be safe.

In recent years, medical technologists have developed 3D ultrasound systems that determine the volume of the fetus and then reconstruct the image in three dimensions. The 4D ultrasounds take those 3D pictures and turn them into moving images.

Outside of obstetrics, ultrasound is widely used for an array of diagnostic and therapeutic reasons, from heating and healing tissue to locating gallstones.

"Ultrasound is a form of energy, and even at low levels, laboratory studies have shown it can produce physical effects in tissue, such as jarring vibrations and a rise in temperature," the FDA said. Because of this, "prenatal ultrasounds can't be considered completely innocuous."

Some small, anecdotal studies in the United States and Europe have shown that it may affect human development, such as delayed speech in children.

In response to a request from the AP, the FDA said it has received a total of 93 reports of problems from all ultrasound machines, not just prenatal. Of those, 63 involved serious injury, 20 involved machine malfunctions and 10 could not be categorized. The agency said it couldn't immediately provide further details.

Dr. Lawrence Platt, an obstetrician in Los Angeles, is both a leading proponent of the 4D ultrasound machines and an outspoken critic of their nonmedical use.

"From diagnostic point of view, it's the most major advance we've had in last 10 years, so how can I help but be enthusiastic about this?" he said.

The higher definition ultrasounds help him diagnose everything from cleft palates to heart problems, he says, and can give babies a better chance of survival by making sure the necessary medical care is standing by.

But he's quick to add that "while it can be helpful, it also can be harmful."

"Used inappropriately, this can be very dangerous," he said. Platt also said several patients have come to him after prenatal portrait sessions turned tragic when problems were discovered.

"These people are not trained to diagnose, nor counsel patients in these situations," he said.

Valerie Christensen, who owns four Fetal Foto studios in Southern California, said her operators have, at times, found fetuses that were malformed or dead.

"At that point we stop the session, switch off the machine, and advise them that they need to see their doctor immediately," she said.

Christensen, and many proponents, said the benefits -- a richer bonding experience for parents with their unborn baby -- outweigh any possible risks.

Many parents say they leave the sessions more excited about the impending birth.

Carmina Bravo of Lakeview Terrace, Calif., teared up when she viewed her baby boy last week with her 4-year-old daughter, Gissel.

"I kind of made a new connection with this baby," said Bravo. "It was so touching."
post #2 of 17
post #3 of 17
Call me old fashioned, but I am still the sort who didn't want to know the gender of her children prior to birth, much less begin a portrait gallery.
post #4 of 17
Whenever I do have a child, I would want to know the gender, and I don't trust ultrasounds (I was supposed to be a boy, my half brother was gonna be 100% girl....) which is why I would do this,BUT, only if I knew for a fact it would not harm the child. I mean, I don't want to have a baby shower for a girl, and then end up having a boy....haha
post #5 of 17
How ridiculous! Especially if they are unsure of the safety! My sister-in-law is pregnant and her doctor waited to do the ultrasound due to safety concerns. Why you would take the chance of harming your child, I'll never know.
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally posted by cla517
How ridiculous! Especially if they are unsure of the safety! My sister-in-law is pregnant and her doctor waited to do the ultrasound due to safety concerns. Why you would take the chance of harming your child, I'll never know.
I agree.

Parents will be able to see the baby soon enough, and there's no sense in potentially harming the child just to have a pretty portrait.
post #7 of 17
that is bit crazy... Isn't taking an ultrasound in an unlicensed place be somewhat dangerous. I do not know much about prenatal care, but if sometimes they don't want to do ultrasound for medical reasons just for the safety why on earth do it for a snapshot?

I agree with Meagan, I would prefer to know the sex of the child before it was born... call me new fashioned if you wish.

Deb, don't think you are the only one... my mom was one of the ones who didn't want to know until it was born.

Anyway, I would trust ultrasounds more than the doctor delivering the birth. In my case one of the doctors said that there was a big risk of mental complications to the baby (mental retardation and such). You people judge for yourself if he got it right. Unless it is mental complications to have a best readers award at the local library at the age of five.
post #8 of 17
I realize I am not the only one, just a shrinking minority. Almost all of the women I know having kids now find out the gender. To me, it's kind of like peeking at your gifts prior to Christmas. I found that not knowing was kind of a neat climax to the whole birthing procedure. While I was pregnant with my daughter, I had an intuitive feeling the entire time that she was a girl, and it turned out to be true.
post #9 of 17
I am concerned about unlicensed, unregulated personnel performing a medical procedure, for vanity reasons. Would you go to a beauty salon, to have a wart or mole removed?
post #10 of 17
That just creeps me out. Can you imagine having to deal with a hysterical mother if they did see something wrong with the baby that the doctor had not yet discovered? That is not something a hair stylist is equipped to do.
I had the option of knowing the gender before my daughter was born, but chose not to. I didn't need some machine to tell me it was a girl. I just knew.
post #11 of 17
If there weren't so many dangers involved I would think it would be neat. My boys look at their ultra sound pictures all the time and are amazed. I had the sex of both of mine before they were born, one with the old wedding ring and string trick and the other bared all on the ultra sound. I was a bit upset when they came out with the lifelike ultra sound machine after I had my kids, but I am one for technology..However, with the risks involved with this, I wouldnt have it done, if something was wrong with my baby and it came out that it was because of having something like that done, I would never forgive myself.
post #12 of 17
I was there, when Samantha had a level-2 US and we found out that the twins were both girls. Knowing the gender, ahead of time DID take some of the fun out of it but, it made it easier for me to buy baby things, before they were born.

When I was pregnant, they only did US on high-risk pregnancies and I did not qualify. With Mark, we wanted a girl and did not pick out any boys' names. In the delivery room, when the doctor said, "Its a boy," I looked at my ex and said, "Oh, $#!+. What are we going to name him?" "Amanda Marie" just didn't seem to fit.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally posted by katl8e
I am concerned about unlicensed, unregulated personnel performing a medical procedure, for vanity reasons. Would you go to a beauty salon, to have a wart or mole removed?
It's unrelated to the pregnancy topic but a few years back here in NYC, they arrested a woman who ran a plastic surgery practice, including procedures which needed anesthesia, which she sometimes provided. There was a small problem though: she had no medical training whatsoever. The place was on 57th Street which in NYC is the very high rent district, and they had lots of customers. They finally killed one of them, as a result of the problem with the anesthesia, which the owner had administered.

While ultrasounds are not substantially dangerous, having this done just for the family album as you said, is unnecessarily reckless.

The craziest thing I've ever known a pregnant woman to do (who was an aquaintence of mine) was to take full body photos of herself nude in various stages of pregnancy. This was for her 'baby book'. She actually seemed to think that her son would enjoy seeing pics of his naked pregnant mother when he grew up!
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Ultrasounds have been an important part of routine prenatal care for millions of women since the 1960s and have proven to be a safe diagnostic tool when done by licensed medical professionals within strict scientific guidelines.
Why are they only safe when done by licensed medical professionals? Perhaps they want to keep the prices up and have the market cornered? As far as I know, there is no evidence that ultra sounds are unsafe. Even in the article I read, it says there is no evidence that harm can be done. Then it goes on to say: well who knows what we'll find in the future? Or maybe we'll find something later. I think it's a bunch of bunk on the medical professions part. They're grasping at straws. It also mentions the cost. It is about $200 to go have a video done at the mall. It's a hell of a lot more to have a poorer quality ultrasound done at a hospital!
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Why are they only safe when done by licensed medical professionals?
According to the article, ultrasounds done by untrained and unlicensed personal might be unsafe "because these unregulated scans are longer, use more energy and can be more frequent."
post #16 of 17
I love those 3d ultrasounds you can get now. Not sure I'd do the portrait thing though.

I had to have 4 ultrasounds during my pregnancy, but the norm here in Australia is 2. It was really cool getting to see my baby, and I understand it's important because they were checking bubs for down syndrome, deformities etc. I did feel like we were playing God though. I definitely didn't want to know the sex of our baby & am so pleased I didn't. I remember being in labour & not knowing the sex gave me motivation to keep going when I was exhausted.

Anyway, back to the topic. I'm friends with a vet & she doesn't like ultrasounds because she says there still "may" be detrimental effects from having them. According to her, they use ultrasound to break up kidney stones. I would imagine at a much different frequency, but it freaked me out hearing that none the less.
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally posted by Misha

Anyway, back to the topic. I'm friends with a vet & she doesn't like ultrasounds because she says there still "may" be detrimental effects from having them. According to her, they use ultrasound to break up kidney stones. I would imagine at a much different frequency, but it freaked me out hearing that none the less.
thats a bit scary!!!!!!!!

Lucia- I dont really think I would like to see MY mother naked and pregnant but on the other hand SOME women can look amazingly beautiful.
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