This blog was originally posted on 4/13/2018
As a doula, I love working with expectant parents, but one thing you may not know about me is I am also a sonographer (not to be confused with Stenographer). I was trained in the United States Air Force to perform ultrasound and I learned the gamut of scanning, everything from thyroids to vasculature to musculoskeletal abnormalities- and my favorite… The Babies ❤️. There are a few misconceptions that when you, as expectant parents, are having your 18-20 week ultrasound scan (performed by a sonographer) might have about the scan itself. I will do my best to clarify some of these myths.
Let's start with the obvious- I am NOT just looking for baby's gender. I have two kiddos of my own and know that finding out the gender can be exciting for many couples. It breaks up the monotony of pregnancy- excitement initially when finding out you are first expecting and then the obvious joyous moment when the baby is born. Finding out gender is the little tidbit in the middle that can be fun to find out, or not- those are fun too! Expectant parents have a general curiosity in seeing this little growing person and watching their movements and reactions to sounds and such. As a sonographer I think of gender (almost) the least. Along with this being an experience for the parents, my job is to make sure your baby is growing at a proper rate and that I see everything I need to see. I am looking for specific brain tissue like the cerebellum, the baby's spine, stomach and diaphragm, kidneys, and let's not forget that beautiful beating heart. I look at all these (and MANY more) structures and watch for proper placement and any abnormalities that may show themselves at this time. Which leads me into Myth #2.
I start Myth #2 with a disclaimer—this area can get murky because as people we are all different and choose to do things differently. As a sonographer I am NOT, I repeat N*O*T, a doctor. I do not have a license to practice medicine and I didn't go to school for 5 years to become a radiologist, on top of the 8 years it typically takes to become a doctor. (Yes, you read that right, Radiologist, or the doctors who read radiology exams to include sonograms, go to school for 13 years….Ain't nobody got time for that!) But let me also clarify- I did have training and do have to stay abreast of new and changing techniques in my field and no- I am not just a button pusher. I have been educated on how to do this job properly and I take great pride in that. As such that I am not a practicing physician, I am not legally allowed to give out results. I say this part gets murky because some sonographers do let their patients know if they saw anything and others like to say everything looked okay, but we all have the same caveat…," I'm not a doctor so follow up with your physician". If you get a sonographer who tells you what they saw- great- but that's not me. I do try to do a bit of show and tell with the expecting parents and show off the wee one, but I will not be the one to tell you if there is (or isn't) any abnormalities. When I say a few minutes that is it- because that is usually all the time I have, which brings me to Myth #3.
Ultrasounds are going to hurt the unborn baby. Currently, no evidence or studies exist to back up this myth. There have not been any studies that have shown a correlation between ultrasounds and any harm to the baby. Unlike X-rays, which use radiation (not so good for quickly growing babies) sonograms utilize sound waves that reflect off different parts of the body to produce an image. Just for purposes of safety and because we have not seen a correlation, but better to be safe than sorry, I learned to not scan a patient for more than 1 consecutive hour. This is just erring on the side of caution. The crunchy side of me reminds myself that we used to think X-rays were perfectly safe and were doing pelvimetry to make sure a baby could fit through a mother's pelvis… and this was not safe. So who knows what the future holds- and because of this I (this is just purely MY opinion) believe people should not be doing their own scans at their house without proper training. Again, just my opinion.
I hope I have cleared up a few questions you may commonly have about ultrasounds and what we as sonographers are specifically looking at while we are quietly scanning you (sometimes we get in the zone… sorry). I would love to answer any questions anyone may have so feel free to comment- is there another myth that has you questioning ultrasounds?? Ask me 😊 I'd be happy to answer any inquiry.