New Health Guide

Are Ultrasounds Harmful?

Jul 28, 2017

A prenatal ultrasound test involves using high-frequency sound waves to take a picture of the abdomen. These sound waves are transmitted through a device called a transducer. The echoes produced in the process are recorded and then transformed into photographic images or video of your baby. With prenatal ultrasound, your doctor can take the images of the baby, placenta, amniotic sac, and ovaries.

Are Ultrasounds Harmful?

When used as per the safety guidelines, ultrasound tests are not harmful. These scans have been in use for decades, and do not pose any risk so long as the sonographer (the person handling the scans) follows the right guidelines.

Can Ultrasound Tests Affect Your Baby?

Again, there is no evidence that ultrasound works can harm your baby. The procedure involves sending sound waves through your uterus that produce echoes after touching your baby's body, and these echoes are then transformed into an image. Depending on the length of your pregnancy, the sonographer may decide to use different length of frequency of the sound waves. Many studies have been conducted to check the effects of ultrasounds, but they have failed to establish any link between ultrasound and childhood cancers, birth weight, hearing, or dyslexia.

It is worth mentioning that some women think that ultrasounds can be dangerous because they generate some heat. The equipment used during the scan does generate some heat, but it is usually less than 1C. It means you really do not need to worry about it. The heat may become less of an issue when a low intensity of ultrasound is used; moreover, the heat is further spread out due to the movement of the mother and the fluid around the baby. You are more likely to get a 2D scan, but 3D and 4D scans are equally safe because the power intensity stays the same.

Should You Worry about Other Types of Scans?

Are ultrasounds harmful? No they are quite safe. But sometimes, you may have to go for other types of scan, such as color scans or Doppler. Are they safe? These types use a beam of sound that is concentrated in a very small area, which is the reason why it can generate more heat. Still, it is safe because the beam is not kept in the same place for too long.

Doppler is also safe because it is ordered to check blood flow, and due to the constant movement of the blood, the heat distributes evenly to lower the risk of experiencing any harm. Some specific scan machines can reduce the intensity or power of the ultrasound beam while using a Doppler to make it safer. Similarly, cardiotocographs (CTGs) and hand-held Doppler machines use low intensities, so they are safe too, especially when used by trained professionals.

When Is It Performed in Pregnancy?

Are ultrasounds harmful? You already know the answer, and there is really no need to worry because almost every woman has it during pregnancy.

You are likely to undergo an ultrasound exam by the time you are 20 weeks pregnant. Your healthcare provider will order an ultrasound test to confirm if the placenta is healthy and your baby is growing in the right way. The ultrasound also helps check the heartbeat of your baby as well as the movement of their arms, legs, and body.

You usually need to have an ultrasound test by 20 weeks to know the gender of your baby. Do not just assume that you will know the gender of your baby because you are undergoing an ultrasound exam – you should tell your healthcare provider that you wish to know the gender so they should examine everything more carefully. While ultrasounds really help determine the gender of your baby, it is not always an accurate way to make a decision. It is always possible to misinterpret the ultrasound images.

It is important to point out that your doctor sometimes orders an ultrasound test early in your pregnancy if you are carrying multiples or you do not know your gestational age. In the later stages of your pregnancy, your doctor may perform an ultrasound to check the health of your baby, the location of the placenta, position of your baby, and the amount of amniotic fluid around your baby.

How Can You Know If It's Performed Properly?

To avoid dealing with any trouble, ensure that you only let a professional carry out the scans. Only an experienced sonographer knows how to perform these scans safely. Medical professionals minimize the risk of any complication by relying on low levels of ultrasound, and they also complete a scan quickly. It is important to work with a professional and experienced sonographer because they know that:

  • They should not use Doppler in the early weeks of pregnancy because it involves using a vaginal probe.
  • They should not focus the beam on bone for long because it heats up much more quickly as compared to soft tissue.
  • They should not leave the probe in one position for a long time.
  • They should complete the scan in a very short time if you have a fever.