The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan is raising concerns about clinics that do ultrasound examinations of pregnant women for non-medical reasons.
Around Canada, some pregnant women have been undergoing “entertainment” ultrasounds where they get photos of the fetus as keepsakes or use the test to determine the sex of the baby.
In Saskatchewan, the college’s policy is that ultrasounds for these purposes are inappropriate and contrary to good medical practice.
There aren’t any provincial laws against entertainment ultrasounds, but the College says ordering or providing ultrasounds for non-medical reasons and billing the government for this service may be seen as “unbecoming, improper, unprofessional discreditable conduct.”
One problem, according to College of Physicians and Surgeons associate registrar Bryan Salte, is that some ultrasounds are being done in non-medical clinics in province.
“The clinics of which I’m aware of do not have any physicians,” Salte said. “The result is that they are not practising medicine and we have no control over them.”
But expectant mothers who go in for unnecessary ultrasounds could be putting their baby at risk, according to Maureen Kral, a medical sonographer with the Saskatoon Health Region.
She argues that because ultrasounds involve sound waves and energy is involved, the procedures carry some risk.
Some past studies have suggested ultrasounds are innocuous, but in many cases, the studies are decades old and based on less-powerful equipment than what is used today, Kral said.
More recent tests done on mice and monkey fetuses suggest overuse of ultrasounds could be harmful to humans, she said.
Ultrasounds are still a valued diagnostic tool, she said. The bottom line is that such tests should be done to obtain specific and medically pertinent information needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery, she said.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada called for an outright ban of ultrasounds used to identify gender.
That followed a CBC report about a B.C. doctor expressing concerns about people using the results of such tests to abort girls.