How Safe Are Ultrasounds?


Expecting mothers are typically offered ultrasound techniques to help monitor the growth and overall health of their baby. For instance, ultrasounds may be able to identify if the baby is suffering from some sort of physical deformity, such as an underdeveloped brain or improper functioning of the heart.

It may also be used to help determine the baby’s position, which would in turn impact the delivery method. At the end of the day, an ultrasound is designed to help protect both baby and mother.

But many expecting mothers may wonder if ultrasounds are safe for themselves and for their unborn babies.

Can Ultrasounds Negatively Affect the Baby?

A certain amount of heat is generated during a high resolution ultrasound, which is then absorbed by the belly that’s being scanned. For pregnancy-related ultrasounds, very little heat is generated, which means ultrasounds are very safe for both mother and baby.

The type of routine scanning that’s used to get 2-D images of the baby uses low-intensity ultrasound that’s spread out over a large surface area. In addition, any movement from the baby and the fluid that he’s in helps to disperse any heat.

A vaginal ultrasound might emit a bit more heat a little faster compared to scans through the tummy since the vaginal probe is warmed up by the mother’s body. However, the probe would need to be left inside the body for a long time for there to be any real danger from an increase in temperature.

Sonographers Know How Much Heat is Being Produced

Ultrasound machines are very sophisticated and can control the amount of heat that is being generated. These machines have a thermal index that is displayed on the screen, giving the sonographer a rough guide as to how much heat might be generated after prolonged exposure.

Most ultrasounds feature a very low thermal index and may be used with no time limit.

Ultrasounds Should Only Be Performed by Professionals

Ultrasounds that expecting mothers receive are only performed by those who have been fully trained with this type of practice. Educated staff are highly knowledgeable about how to perform ultrasounds safely, and are trained in using low levels of ultrasound as necessary.

Most physicians agree that it’s highly unlikely that ultrasounds are harmful, and that the pros of ultrasounds in keeping tabs on pregnancies far outweigh any possible risks.