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Ultrasounds + Autism: A New Link

Are Ultrasounds Causing Autism?

It seems everywhere we turn, another supposed cause of autism has been discovered. Vaccinations? Some say so. Certain foods? Others say yes. Chemicals in products? Yep. Pollution in the air? You bet. I’m pretty wary of jumping on the latest bandwagons when it comes to the hows and whys of illnesses. But if something makes sense and is backed by solid findings, it’s kind of hard to turn the other cheek.

That’s what happened when I discovered an article on Women in the World on The Daily BeastI saw what seemed to be an uber alarmist title (“Are Ultrasounds Causing Autism in Unborn Babies?”), and I immediately rolled my eyes.

Here we go again. Another fear-mongering article. 

But I went on to read it anyway. And I was impressed with the factual studies and genuine authorities the author cited. By the end of it, I wasn’t so ready to dismiss the possibility that there may, in fact, be a link between ultrasounds and autism.

How?

The researchers behind the study admit they were hesitant to release their findings because they thought it would deter expectant moms from receiving medically necessary ultrasounds. But the head researchers “decided the findings were too significant to ignore and concluded that all nonmedical use of ultrasound on pregnant women should be avoided.” He further states, “We should be using the same care with ultrasound as with X-rays.”

Well, according to the article which studied the effect of ultrasound on mice, not humans “prenatal exposure to ultrasound waves changed the way the neurons in mice distributed themselves in the brain… that a smaller percentage of cells migrated to the upper cortical layers of the mouse brain and a larger percentage to the lower layers and white matter.”

The researchers behind the study admit they were hesitant to release their findings because they thought it would deter expectant moms from receiving medically necessary ultrasounds. But the head researchers “decided the findings were too significant to ignore and concluded that all nonmedical use of ultrasound on pregnant women should be avoided.” He further states, “We should be using the same care with ultrasound as with X-rays.”

Whoa! Hold up. That’s a pretty serious claim. And as someone who had an ultrasound once a week for the first 8 weeks of my pregnancy (standard procedure for IVF pregnancies at my fertility center), this is cause for some serious concern especially since my water broke at 17 weeks the same day I had an ultrasound, and I miscarried my twins that night. Now I hear that ultrasounds are as dangerous as X-rays?!

If that’s true, why are they so standard? And why do medical providers often push them? Why is no one listening to these researchers?

Apparently, a handful of doctors are listening, like a neurologist and his team who have been studying the effect of ultrasounds on brain development for 15 years and who have hypothesized “that ultrasound exposure is the main environmental factor contributing to the exponential rise in autism.”

What I found most interesting in the article was this:

“There are more neurologically damaged children in the United States today than ever before. As of 2007, 5.4 million children (the entire population of Finland) have been diagnosed with attention disorders, and today one in every eighty-eight children in America has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Japan, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Australia, France, Germany, Canada, and the United States are among the industrialized nations that are seeing a huge, troubling, and seemingly inexplicable rise in the numbers of autistic children. These countries are geographically and culturally different. Their vaccine schedules are different. The labor and delivery experience is also different: In Scandinavian countries and Japan many more pregnant women tend to choose unmedicated vaginal births. 

But all these countries do have one thing in common: the vast majority of pregnant women are getting regular prenatal care and being exposed to ultrasound in the form of anatomy scans and fetal-heart monitoring. In countries with nationalized health care, where virtually every pregnant woman is exposed to multiple ultrasounds, autism rates are even higher than in the United States.

The ultrasounds done on pregnant women today use sound waves with eight times the intensity used before 1991. This time period roughly coincides with the alarming increase in the incidence of autism within our population. Even more disturbing, the majority of technicians using ultrasound machines (as many as 96 percent) do not understand the safety margins they must adhere to in order to make sure the fetus is not exposed to harm.”

::What do you think about this? Does this make you want to talk to your doctor about the use of ultrasound during your pregnancy? Or do you think this is just hype?::

Source: Women in the World on The Daily Beast
Photo: iStockphoto

Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make a Right

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