FDA warns against 'keepsake' sonogram videos

Federal regulators are urging pregnant women to avoid commercial sonogram services that offer "keepsake" photos and videos of fetuses in utero.

In an alert, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised the possibility that unnecessary ultrasound scans conducted by lay sonographers could cause harm to the developing fetus.

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The agency also named fetal heartbeat monitors as a possible source of injury when used by non-medical personnel, especially over a protracted session.

"Prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important," said FDA biomedical engineer Shahram Vaezy in a statement Tuesday.

"Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles in some tissues," Vaezy added.

The memo is the latest attempt by the FDA to dampen the popularity of commercial sonogram services.

Often opened in shopping malls, the shops seek to provide a venue for parents and relatives to bond with unborn babies.

For a few hundred dollars, a pregnant woman can undergo a session where the baby's features are captured up close in photos and videos available for purchase.

The amount of time used for each ultrasound scan is one area of concern for regulators.

Non-medical sonographers might take an hour to capture video of a fetus, the alert noted, and might not be vigilant about power and heat settings. Tissue damage is a potential result.

The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine and the American Pregnancy Association have taken similar positions.