Why We're Not Getting Any Ultrasounds

When I was pregnant for the first time, I looked forward to my ultrasounds with great anticipation.  I couldn’t wait to see my baby, figure out a ‘real’ due date, make sure everything was okay, and yes — find out the sex of the baby.  We had two: one at about 9 weeks, and one at 20 weeks.

We did the same thing when I was pregnant the second time: two ultrasounds, around 8 weeks and 20 weeks.  But then we switched from a practice of OBs and midwives to a practice home birth midwives when I was 28 weeks along, and we’ve gone with the same practice this time.  If we wanted an ultrasound — which many of their clients do — we’d have to go to one of those 3-D places at the mall (which even ACOG says aren’t really safe).

And so, for many reasons, we’ve chosen not to get any ultrasounds this time.

There are definitely benefits to ultrasounds, and it’s true that if we experienced any problems or indications that there may be a problem, we’d be willing to get an ultrasound just to make sure things were okay.  However, we don’t want any routine ultrasounds, and we haven’t had any.

This decision wasn’t made lightly and yes, there are nerve-wracking moments occasionally: what if my baby is one of those who has some severe and potentially fatal genetic disorder that we could catch via ultrasound?  Or when I got the flu several months ago and started having contractions randomly (Braxton Hicks) I wondered is my baby really okay??  It was hard to resist the temptation, at times, to run and get an ultrasound just in case.  But of course, a fetoscope confirmed my baby was definitely alive after my bout with the flu (and since baby never stops moving now, I’m constantly reassured!), and if we really were having a baby with a definitely fatal disorder (for example, the top of the baby’s head never formed, leaving its brain exposed), we wouldn’t do anything differently anyway.  We wouldn’t get an abortion.  So what does it matter, from that angle?

On the other hand, especially because I am known to be low-risk, there are benefits to not having ultrasounds, too.

1) Not obsessing over dates — With my first pregnancy, my LMP put my due date at January 30th.  My 9-week ultrasound said Feb. 1.  My 20-week ultrasound said Jan. 25.  And my daughter was born Jan. 26.  Did it really matter what my “due date” actually was?  I knew approximately when to expect her, and she arrived when she was ready.  Obsessing over ‘when’ my baby would come was not helpful, especially in the last weeks when I was tired of being pregnant.

2) Not obsessing over “what could go wrong” — I know, this is really kind of a double-edged sword.  I do worry since I don’t “know.”  But it’s also forced me to trust my body more, to pay more attention to various signs and symptoms, to feel my baby’s movements more, instead of relying on tests and measurements to tell me if everything was okay.

3) A desire for less intervention — Pregnancy just isn’t a medical problem.  It can be, but it isn’t necessarily.  I know that I have a really low-risk history and so do all the women in my family.  It makes me tense and stressed anyway when I’m “interfered” with too much unnecessarily.  I’m serious, even if I’m sick I want everyone to go away until I’m better…I always just want to be left alone.  Pregnancy being not an illness, but a normal condition, I especially don’t want to be bothered when things are going normally.  I’ve had too many people freak me out over nothing!

4) Concern over ultrasound itself — I’m not convinced that ultrasound is really harmless.  It’s super-powerful sound waves which, when used for other purposes, can actually break up kidney stones.  And maybe I’m missing pieces of information, but I just worry about what bouncing those waves off the baby is doing.  Plus I’ve read a couple studies about brain damage possibly being related to ultrasound (and maybe that’s just to repeated ultrasounds, or 3D ultrasounds, or more powerful technology — I don’t know).  But regardless I feel more comfortable skipping it if I don’t have any risk factors.

For all these reasons, we’ve chosen to skip ultrasounds this time around.

A side benefit is that we can’t find out the sex of the baby.  Some wouldn’t consider that a benefit, of course.  But not knowing for the first time is really rather interesting!  I know that at the moment of birth the announcement will be huge!  With the other two it was simply, “It is a girl/boy, right?”  Besides, this time I already have clothes for both sexes and all kinds of baby gear, so there’s no concern with ‘getting ready’ for baby.  No, I don’t have girl clothes beyond the 3 – 6 month size in the appropriate season, but how do I know this baby would grow anything like his/her siblings anyway?

So that is where we are!

Are you getting ultrasounds?  Why or why not?

Top image by andrewmalone

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