There’s nothing like seeing your precious bundle of joy tossing and turning inside your womb as projected from the retro-futuristic screen of an ultrasound machine. There he sits, his umbilical cord dancing around him like a Maypole ribbon, his weird, oversized head rocking back and forth in a precious, undead sort of way. He’s almost cute, if it weren’t for the picture’s Martian orange hue or the fact his skin looks stretched and leathery. But you chose this 3D ultrasound, and now you must enjoy it.
Imagine you’re an expectant mother. Maybe you are, in which case this exercise should be fairly easy for you. As the weeks pass, your belly swells and, like the glutton who realizes his own mortality after one-too-many slices of pie, you grow increasingly aware of the life inside you. Flat, grainy pictures of your quasi baby don’t suit your needs. You need volume, damn it. You need an overworked, underpaid ultrasound technician to run a remote control that’s slathered in jelly over your stomach, so you can see each tiny slope of a nose, each tiny arc of an ear.
A Method To The (Adorable?) Madness
There are a few things you should expect before you surrender your womb to the glorified metal detector that is an ultrasound. First, you should know that unless you want a faceless heap of goop as the first glimpse of your child, you’ll want to put off the scan until the 17-week point. No joke — a 2007 study found maternal bonding decreased before 17 weeks because the mothers were so repulsed by their blobby miracles.
Second, there’s the science. Every nervous wreck-of-a-parent should know that an ultrasound relies on (drum roll, please) sound waves. In a 2D image, the waves bathe in the gross jelly before bouncing off the fetus and reflecting back. In a 3D image, the waves blast the unsuspecting fetus from all different directions. Your baby won’t know what hit him. (Seriously, he won’t. The waves are painless.) But in case your rapidly-fluctuating hormones tell you something has to go wrong, know that when an ultrasound penetrates the skin, it heats the tissue slightly.
Robert Phillips, a physicist from the Food and Drug Administration, thinks this should be enough to convince mothers that keepsake ultrasounds are dangerous (not to mention a huge breach of fetal privacy). There are so many things that could go wrong, so many ways a fetus can be overexposed to the otherwise harmless waves, that shirking all responsibility for the sake of an ugly photograph is just bad parenting.
"Performing prenatal ultrasounds without medical oversight may put a mother and her unborn baby at risk," Phillips said in an agency statement. "The bottom line is: Why take a chance with your baby's health for the sake of a video?"
Because it’s one more thing to shove in people’s faces. Sorry, was that not clear?