Smile, baby!

The use of prenatal ultrasounds rose 55 percent for both high-risk and low-risk mothers in Ontario, Canada, between 1996 and 2006, according to a population-based study of nearly 1.4 million women published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal this week.

More than one-third of women delivering “singleton” babies had three or more outpatient ultrasounds during their second and third trimesters. Nearly twenty percent of prospective mothers had more than four ultrasounds in the second and third trimesters.

Two ultrasounds are generally recommended in uncomplicated pregnancies -- one in the first trimester, and another in the second, the report states.

The researchers, from Toronto-area facilities, led by John J. You MD, ventured that their findings are consistent with evidence accumulating in other health fields that "interventions most beneficial to high-risk individuals are frequently directed at low-risk populations."

Reasons for this, in the case of obstetrics, include... "the practice of defensive medicine, the desire to reassure a patient that her pregnancy is progressing normally, patient demand and even the 'entertainment' value of seeing one's fetus."

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