Sunday, November 25, 2007

Too Many Ultrasounds?

The following article was taken from and can be found at the following link.

I had seen a similar article a few years ago but it was not as detailed as this one, which comes to us today thanks to Helen Harrison.

During my pregnancy with Paige, and before my water broke, I had many ultrasounds due to early bleeding, hyperemesis and polyhydramnios. After my water broke, I had daily ultrasounds, lasting more than 15 minutes each sitting, to check my fluid levels. This was a daily ritual that continued the entire 2 1/2 weeks until I delivered. What I find most interesting about this article is that Paige was both very delayed in speech and is left handed, despite her left sided weakness. I'd love to see if the researches have proven a correlation.

When I was pregnant with Tyler I had weekly ultrasounds, all of them lasting more than 15 each sitting. Towards the end I had biweekly ultrasounds that lasted at least 30 minutes each sitting (some were less if Tyler cooperated). Although he is too young (almost 19 months) to determine hand preference, he is very delayed in speech (not even saying mama and dada consistently).

If anyone has any newer information on the subject, I'd love to see it.

Bad Vibrations? Ultrasound disturbs mouse brains.

Christen Brownlee

Prolonged and frequent use of fetal ultrasound might lead to abnormal brain development, a study in mice suggests. The finding sounds a cautionary note for pregnant women getting the commonplace procedure.

In that technique, an ultrasound probe sends high-frequency sound waves into the abdomen of a pregnant woman. The waves bounce back to detectors, creating images of the fetus. Doctors use the pictures to check for birth defects and to assess a fetus' size and movements. Many women also undergo ultrasounds to create collections of early baby pictures.

Ultrasound has generally been regarded as safe. However, a few studies have suggested that it might cause neurological changes, such as delayed speech or an increase in left-handedness. Researchers hadn't studied how the number or duration of ultrasound procedures affects neurons growing in the fetal brain, says neuroscientist Pasko Rakic of Yale University.

Neurons are created in discrete places within the brain as it develops, and they then travel to the brain's outer layers. Rakic and his colleagues study this process, which is known as neural migration.

To determine whether ultrasound affects neural migration, the team worked with mice at a late point in pregnancy, when new fetal neurons have to migrate a long distance to reach the brain's outer layers.

The researchers injected the animals with a chemical that marks newborn neurons and then applied ultrasound to the bellies of some of the animals over the next 3 days. The ultrasound was administered to each pregnant mouse in multiple sessions that totaled 5 to 420 minutes. With the machine turned off, the scientists touched other mice with the ultrasound probe for the same amounts of time. A third group of animals received no procedure at all.

After the mouse pups were born, the team examined brain slices. In animals whose mothers had had ultrasound sessions that added up to 30 minutes or more, the scientists found that a significant number of neurons destined for the brain's outer layers of gray matter had become improperly embedded in inner layers of white matter.

The number of misplaced neurons increased with the total time that a newborn mouse's mother had spent receiving ultrasound. In contrast, the brains of newborns whose mothers had had the sham procedure typically resembled those whose mothers had had no procedure, Rakic's team reports in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"When cells are in the wrong place, they might affect function of the cerebral cortex," which in people controls such higher brain functions as language and movement, says Rakic. "We just don't know yet what this could do."

He and his team plan to conduct studies that will determine whether the results hold up in nonhuman primates.

Rakic cautions that some women might be getting excessive sonography. He's especially concerned about so-called keepsake ultrasounds, which are often performed by untrained technicians in nonclinical settings, such as shopping malls.

The mouse results reinforce guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration, says pediatric neurologist Verne Caviness of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "The basic guidelines in this country suggest using ultrasound as little as possible," he says. "Baby pictures aren't a justifiable use for this technology."


Anonymous said...

In my study group of two kids, my results don't fit with the findings of the article. My IUGR preemie was born at 29 1/2 weeks. I had daily ultrasounds for 2 1/2 weeks before she was delivered. That was in addition to ultrasounds at 11 weeks and 20 weeks. She was verbally advanced, even for actual age. She is also right handed. Her FT little brother had only 2 ultrasounds (20 weeks and 33 weeks). He is only average at best in his verbal skills (and also right handed).


terri w/2 said...

Interesting study - in addition to the fetal US, many of our kids had many cranial US to check for IVH's, etc.

Anonymous said...

I had about 25 U/S's during my 31 week pregnancy, both of my girls are quite verbally advanced and although I know it is early to determine "handedness", they definitely use their right hand most often (even though I'm a leftie). They are 20 months old.

Helen Harrison said...

I should probably also mention that preemies, even before ultrasound, have always displayed an excess of left-handedness, or, as some researchers put it: "non-right-handedness."

What this seems to indicate is a disturbance in brain development that shifts the natural "handedness" of the child. It usually indicates that there will be other brain-based problems as well, such as cognitive, behavioral, and motor disorders.

I suppose a child who was genetically destined to be left-handed, could become right-handed (or non left-handed)from similar brain disturbances.

Prematurity per se has been shown to cause the sort of damage that shifts natural handedness.

But ultrasound -- and many other factors that "change the brain" (antenatal steroids for example used in high risk pregnancies)-- warrant greater investigation to see if they are producing these effects in high-risk fullterm children, and to see if they may be playing a role in the current epidemic of ADDH/autism.

Kathy said...

Okay, I am officially FREAKING OUT.

There's always something new to worry about, isn't there?

Anonymous said...

While I did not have nearly as many ultrasounds as you, I had them more than once a day after being hospitalized due to PROM. One of my preemie twins, who had a grade 4 IVH, is left-handed despite the IVH occurring on the left side. He was slightly speech delayed, but that could be due to numerous ear infections. He also had cranial ultrasounds in the NICU. Interesting study!

The Preemie Experiment said...

I also wonder what negative effect that darn buzzer (used during non stress test) could have on a fetus. Paige was subjected to that buzzer, daily-for over 2 weeks, after my water broke. They also did it once during an ultra sound. She jumped so hard that the pain in my uterus (from lack of fluid) almost caused me to black out. (and believe me... I'm no sissy when it comes to pain).

The Preemie Experiment said...

Kathy... hang in there. I know how scary it can be to read the topics that we are discussing here. It's always best to read the research and tuck it away in your mind for future reference.


Anonymous said...

I am concerned about the effects of pilates on newborns. It hasn't been tested that I'm aware of but the health clubs are still signing up infants to take the classes.

The Preemie Experiment said...

Hmmm... Maybe we should call Zoo Knudsen and see if he would be willing to do some investigative work on the subject!

buddhist mama said...

Was that a joke about the pilates? It's late and I'm sleep deprived so my humor meter is off.

Very interesting about the ultrasounds---there have been similar reports earlier, but there seems a lack of medical will to explore the issue more deeply. Perhaps because US is so profitable. Or maybe it is because ultrasound fulfills a deep desire on behalf of medicine and the public for more control and assurance in an area---the gestation and neurological development of the fetus----about which both lack much knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.
With my preemie 34wks sga I had many U/S scans all of them very long and detalied. She is now 7 showed a very early prefreance for being a lefty though does use her rt for some things. She was also very delayed in speech and still has delays and is in st

Helen Harrison said...

To anonymous 8:28 who says s/he's worried about Pilates ;)

When research shows that Pilates interferes with brain development, we should all be on alert.

Hasn't happened yet to my knowledge, but to be extra-careful we should check with the CDC before exposing our fetuses/infants;)

Ultrasound is, at this point, still just a worrisome "maybe" that warrants further investigation.

However, much that is now done in perinatal/neonatal care (from steroids to ventilator treatment) *has definitely* been shown-- both in lower animals and humans -- to cause brain damage. That is where, I think, we should focus our worries for the time being.

And until exculpatory evidence comes in, I'd stay away from intrauterine baby pictures in the mall.

terri w/2 said...

A couple of years back when Tom Cruise and wife, Katie were expecting, they purchased an ultrasound unit for home use. They were planning on monitoring their own baby at home, after being trained by US techs. There was quite an uproar about this by OB/GYNs, and they questioned the safety of multiple (unneeded) US on fetal development. It seems this might be something that's been kicked around for awhile now.

Kathy said...

I think that Katie & Tom's reps came out with a statement that they weren't planning to do their own US, just that the paparazzi made it impossible for Katie to get to her OB. So, they rented the equipment so that her OB could care for her entirely with house calls.

I can easily believe that that was true, but I also wouldn't be surprised if their PR people made it up once there was a public backlash. You never really know with Hollywood, do you?

But hey, wouldn't it be nice if an ultrasound tech and your perinatologist could come to you for all of your appointments? No waiting rooms, no hanging out in a cold exam room wearing just a hospital gown and socks... I did get one late-night house call, complete with producing a urine sample in my own bathroom, and it was SOOOOO nice.

Anonymous said...

I have two chidren, both FT. With both I had two u/s lasting more than 30 minutes, plus the 4D imaging u/s that lasted a hour each. Both children are verbally advanced for their actual ages and both are left handed. They are 3 1/2 and 2 and both are girls.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know how they gauged a delay in verbal development in a mouse??

tbonegrl said...


What do studies show about the steroid shots given when babies are in utero for lung development? I apologize if this has already been discussed, your response triggered me to ask...I discussed it with my OB as I had reservations but she assured me that there were no negatives...something I find hard to believe.

tbonegrl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I had approx 10 scans with my son who was bornat 38 weeks. He is extremely advance with his speech and has been from a very early ages, strangers are always commenting on how well he speaks, he 2. He is Left handed. I have no concerns having extra scans with my second baby!

Anonymous said...

I had 1 ultrasound at 19 weeks with my first baby and he has always been advanced in speech, socially, behaviorally and cognitively as well as in size, and he's a lefty all the way.

with my second i conceived with clomid so i had a ultrasound at 8 wks to check for twins and again at 12 weeks because of severe cramping and then the usual 20 week one where we found out i had partial placenta previa so i had a follow up at 26 weeks and then found out i had gestational diabetes so then i had NST and ultrasound everyother week wil 35 weeks and then a NST and ultrasound every week until he was born at 37 1/2 weeks. He is only 11 1/2 months old but he is developing right on schedule so far, the only issue he has is a slight lazy eye which is hereditary and my husband had it til he was about 2. He is showing dominance in being right handed.

with my current pregnancy i had spotting early on and found out my progesterone was low and also conceived again with clomid so i had a few ultrasound in the first 8 weeks and then found out i had a subchorionic hemorrhage at 9 weeks so i had 2 more and a NT scan for chromosomal abnormalities at 12 1/2 weeks. I am now 14 weeks and having another free u/s at my college because students need ppl to practice on and i am not worried at all. I also have gestational diabetes again already so i will have MANY more to come and my dr assures me they are entirely safe except a MYTH that caused them to stop using the doppler to listen to heart tones etc.

Christin said...

This is so scary to me. I am 16 weeks and have already had four ultrasounds, and only today did it occur to me to do research on possible side effects. I've worked so hard to eliminate exposure to toxins, chemicals, and pesticides in food, beauty products, and cleaning supplies for the health of my baby, and yet here I am having all these ultrasounds. I am officially unnerved.

Anonymous said...

Since when is being left handed something that is not proper/normal? Pretty ignorant to think that it is.