ICPA Family Wellness First - 024 - Prenatal Ultrasound Update
A new study: "Ultrasound Can Affect Brain Development" is bringing attention to what has become a routine prenatal procedure. The use of ultrasound has dramatically increased in prenatal care however, its safety and efficacy are still highly questionable. Even the FDA cautions, "While ultrasound has been around for many years, expectant women and their families need to know that the long-term effects of repeated ultrasound exposures on the fetus are not fully known."
Most studies and authorities recommend that ultrasound is safe only when "medically necessary". The question really comes down to personal practitioner opinion: "what warrants medical necessity?" Here is where interpretation is undefined and practice protocol ranges vastly. While ACOG recommends that ultrasound examinations be done for specific reasons, such as a suspected ectopic pregnancy, a possible miscarriage or detection of possible birth defects, many physicians include at least one examination as part of routine care, usually at 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Subsequent ultrasounds throughout pregnancy are not uncommon. The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation estimates that 70 percent of American women have at least one ultrasound examination during their pregnancy.
Perhaps a more prudent and safer approach would be to clearly define medical necessity as "life saving" and forgo prenatal ultrasound procedures for less relevant reasons. The original axiom of medicine "first do no harm" should always be considered when determining "medical necessity" for ultrasound.
"Lack of risk has been assumed because no adverse effects have been demonstrated clearly in humans. However, other evidence dictates that a hypothetical risk must be presumed with ultrasound. Like-wise, the efficacy of many uses of ultrasound in improving the management and outcome of pregnancy also has been assumed rather than demonstrated, especially its value as a routine screening procedure. http://www.ob-ultrasound.net/joewoo3y.html
In accordance with medical protocol, the safety and efficacy of prenatal ultrasound has not yet been proven via peer reviewed research. On the contrary, current studies are cautioning its use. Prenatal ultrasound, therefore may even be interpreted as, "experimental and investigational".
Now a new study presents data we have suspected all along: ultrasound may affect brain development...
A new study warns, exposure to ultrasound can affect fetal brain development. Head researcher, Pasko Rakic, is chairman of the neurobiology department at Yale University School of Medicine. Although Rakic says, "Our study in mice does not mean that use of ultrasound on human fetuses for appropriate diagnostic and medical purposes should be abandoned" he did, however add that "women should avoid unnecessary ultrasound scans until more research has been done."
The study, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke revealed that when pregnant mice were exposed to ultrasound, a small number of nerve cells in the developing brains of their fetuses failed to extend correctly in the cerebral cortex. The paper added that the since the developmental period of these brain cells is much longer in humans than in mice, that exposure would be a smaller percentage of their developmental period. However, the authors also made it clear that brain cell development in humans is also more complex than in mice and with more cells developing, the chances of developmental mishaps could be increased.
In Rakic's study, pregnant mice were exposed to ultrasound for various amounts of time ranging from a total exposure of 5 minutes to 420 minutes. The brains of the newborn baby mice were studied and compared with those of mice whose mothers had not been exposed to ultrasound.
The study of 335 mice concluded that in those whose mothers were exposed to a total of 30 minutes or more, "a small but statistically significant number" of brain cells failed to grow into their proper position and remained scattered in incorrect parts of the brain. The number of affected cells increased with longer exposures.
Prenatal exposure to ultrasound waves impacts neuronal migration in mice.
Concerned with nerve system stress, doctors of chiropractic are always on the look out for procedures that may cause more damage than benefit. Many doctors of chiropractic have been cautioning their pregnant patients to avoid the use of ultrasound unless there is life saving necessity. To find a doctor of chiropractic in your area who will support and respect your choices for natural non-invasive pregnancies and births check out the ICPA membership web site: http://www.icpa4kids.org
Each of our Pathways magazines has a section on Pregnancy and Birth. Our very first issue addressed ultrasound and issue number 12 due to come out this December will delve into this topic once again.
To subscribe on-line to our full color, quarterly magazine, Pathways visit this page: https://secure.icpa4kids.com/pathways_subscription.htm
Jeanne Ohm DC
ICPA, Executive Coordinator
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