Fetal Photos: The Risky Business Of Photographing Unborn Babies

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From selfies to viral videos, social media has put us at the center of our own digital world.  And now the desire to document everyday life is extending to the very earliest stages in prenatal portraits.

Expectant mother Lindsay Zimmerman says she has taken around 15 pictures of her unborn babies over the course of two pregnancies.  She says the experience allows her and her family to bond with her baby throughout the course of her pregnancy.

Ultrasound imaging uses high-frequency sound waves to produce high resolution 3 and 4-D images.

At Ultrasona in Lewis Center, prenatal ultrasound exams are performed by licensed ultrasound technicians and reviewed by a doctor.

The lure of this growing industry is the parents to be get to see detailed features, including allowing parents to count fingers and toes before the baby is born.

"We have really high standards compared to what is out there industry-wide. There (are) no real requirements on who does ultrasounds,” says Ultrasound Technician Kelly Bond.

The FDA warns women about potential hazards of getting the keepsake videos and warns against having a prenatal ultrasound for non-medical reasons.

"They really do frown on using medical technologies for entertainment. But from a standpoint of safety, it's probably okay,” says Dr. David Fox, Obstetrician-Gynecologist.

Prenatal ultrasound, from a medical standpoint, is generally considered safe.  The FDA says when it's used by a trained professional to gather medical information, the benefit far outweighs any risk.

But the FDA only regulates the medical device - the ultrasound machine - not the people performing them. Determining those qualifications falls to the state, and in Ohio, the Department of Health doesn't regulate ultrasounds performed for elective, non-medical purposes.  The FDA considers it an unapproved use of a medical device, but in Ohio, it's perfectly legal.

But for Lindsay Zimmerman, she says it provides her with comfort knowing what to expect, when she's expecting.  "It was definitely a huge stress relief. It takes away that kind of anxiety, nervousness of not knowing if something's wrong, if there's any potential for something to go wrong.”

And the fetal photos will deliver that gift, months before her baby's due date.