The results, published within JAMA Paediatrics, showed children who are diagnosed with autism, had fewer ultrasound scans on average. This provides peace of mind to pregnant women who may be concerned about the effects ultrasound scans have on their baby.
Understanding the results of the study
The results of the study carried out by scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center, should prove reassuring to parents. It was carried out to determine whether the rise in the number of ultrasound scans could be a contributing factor in the increased autism diagnosis rate.
After comparing the number and energy of ultrasound scans used on children diagnosed with autism and those who are not autistic, it was revealed those with autism actually had less exposure to ultrasound scans. It is known, however, that ultrasound has the potential to heat up the tissue. This, in turn, can cause damage, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.
There have been studies carried out on animals which have suggested ultrasound can impact the developing brain. In a study carried out on mice, for example, it was discovered ultrasound exposure within the womb caused them to be less social. There have also been studies which have shown children are more likely to be left-handed after exposure to ultrasound. However, in terms of autism, the majority of cases do not appear to be linked to ultrasound scans in pregnancy.
Deeper ultrasound scans could increase the risk
Although largely reassuring, the study did show that deeper ultrasound scans could increase the risk of autism. One of the main reasons deeper ultrasound scans are needed relate to excess abdominal fat. Therefore, weight management could prove to be a successful way to minimise the risks.
Age could also be a contributing factor, as studies show mothers of children diagnosed with autism appear to be over the age of 35. As it stands, researchers aren’t quite sure what these results mean, and further studies will be required to determine the numerous factors associated with autism.
Private scans should not be conducted “just for fun”
Although it has largely been discovered that ultrasound scans do not directly increase the risk of autism, experts still advise against having additional scans carried out for fun. It is known excess levels of ultrasound can negatively impact brain development, so logically, the more scans you have, the greater the risk.
Private scans can prove crucial for those worried about the health of their baby. However, patients considering having more than one additional scan purely for the photo memories they provide, should reconsider.
In conclusion, standard ultrasound scans do not appear to increase the risk of autism. However, additional research is required to determine the true risk factors behind the condition. Patients should also be wary of undergoing too many private scans, especially if they are deeper ultrasound scans.