A recent survey revealed that scanxiety, a phenomenon where expectant mothers undergo multiple ultrasounds, now affects nearly one in three pregnant women in the U.K. Current guidelines in the U.S. and the U.K. call for just two ultrasounds during the 12th and 20th week of pregnancy to monitor the child’s condition. “For the last 20 years, it’s been quite common for women to access private facilities for scans. Sometimes it’s simply for reassurance, or because they don’t feel they’re getting sufficient scans on the NHS [National Health Service]. Sometimes they’re accessing a service that isn’t routinely provided, such as 3D and 4D scans. Many are what you might call souvenir scans,” Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesman Dr. Christoph Lees said in TheGuardian.com.
The survey by the parenting site ChannelMum.com collected data from 2,000 pregnant mothers and found that a third of pregnant women opted for extra scans, which were largely prompted by anxiety over the health of the fetus. The poll also showed that another one-third of respondents reported undergoing additional scans to monitor the baby without any specific medical reasons. To be more specific: Twenty percent of women were reported to have gone through two sessions, while 18 percent underwent three or more. Furthermore, one in 50 even reported having nine or 10 additional private scans. This equated to more than one ultrasound session per month during the whole duration of pregnancy, the researchers said.
According to the researchers, extra scans cost expectant mothers millions despite not having any medical reason. The survey revealed that private scans cost from 35 British Pounds up to 1,000 British Pounds for a repeat package. The poll also showed that the private scan industry is currently valued at $54 million a year. However, the researchers have warned that some clinics offer scans that last more than 30 minutes, which may potentially harm the unborn child. The experts have also cautioned about the increasing popularity of “pop-up” scanning companies that offer to conduct the ultrasound at home. Some clinics employ unregistered sonographers, the researchers said.
“Current advice by the National Institute For Health and Clinical Excellence is to have an early scan and then a screening scan for anomalies at around 18-20 weeks. These are recommendations based on the available research and takes into account the harm and benefit of scans. Any further scans beyond these recommendations should be clinically indicated and based on the needs of the women and her developing baby. It is of concern that women are needing this extra assurance. It may reflect a need for women to have more confidence in their pregnancy and this type of reassurance and support is, and can, be provided by their midwife. Anxieties caused by reliance on technology can have an impact on a woman’s pregnancy, causing undue stress and anxiety,” Mervi Jokinen, Practice and Standards Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said in DailyMail.co.uk.
Feds warn about the potential dangers of frequent ultrasound
The U.K.’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) expressed concerns in 2010 over pregnant women undergoing non-essential ultrasound scans. The HPA noted that while ultrasound scans were generally safe, undergoing extra scans to take keepsake pictures of the unborn child may potentially introduce harmful effects to the mother. Expectant parents should be able to quantify these unknown risks against the benefits of having the keepsake photos, the agency added. The HPA’s warning was based on an analysis by the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation, which indicated that excessive ultrasound exposure may negatively affect the developing child’s nervous system.
In addition, a study published in Lancet revealed that repeat ultrasound testing impacted fetal growth. To carry out the study, the researchers examined nearly 3,000 women with singleton pregnancies and found that those who underwent multiple ultrasound tests exhibited significantly higher intrauterine growth restriction than those who had less frequent scans. The results suggested that exposure to ultrasound may spur negative effects on fetal growth, the researchers said.
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