Are Ultrasounds Safe During Pregnancy?
Parents Are Asked to Weigh In On A 30-Year Old Question: Are Ultrasounds Safe During Pregnancy or Are They Associated with the Steady Decline in the Mental and Physical Health of Some Children?
Dr. Carol Phillips, BA, DC asks parents to weigh in on the ultrasound debate by completing an important survey
For the last 25 years, my chiropractic office has been filled with children, so full of life and energy that it’s hard to believe anything can be wrong with society. Many of these children come from a Pro-Active Holistic Wellness background consisting of chiropractic care prior to conception, natural deliveries, and clean diets. Many of the others come into the office due to complications from difficult deliveries or injuries typical for active, growing children.
Yet every day, I have to contrast these children with others who are brought to me by desperate parents who report complications due to genetic anomalies, leaky gut, and/or syndromes such as: ADD, ADHD, PDD, OCD, EBD, and ASD.
I am saddened every day by the rate of suffering these parents endure. Treatments for these children take an enormous financial and physical toll on a marriage as they try to keep up with the various doctor and nutritional counseling appointments as well as, occupational, speech and physical therapy appointments. Many families go deep into debt putting their children into specialized private schools, while others are lucky enough to have a public school system that can afford the individualized schooling their child needs. One family in my practice has three boys on the spectrum. I can only marvel at their mom, who does her best to acquire the specialized care each and every child must get on a daily basis. Parents go to sleep at night wondering what they will do with their child as they grow taller and stronger and possibly become harder to manage. What happens when they die? Who will take care of their child when they no longer can?
It wasn’t always like this? Is there something in the history that might differentiate the two groups of children?
In 1974, children with severe learning disabilities, mental retardation or physical challenges were not mainstreamed into public school. Instead, they were bused to a separate school that was specific for those children. I lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado at that time and worked as a teacher’s aide in the school designated for children in that town and surrounding suburbs. No matter how severe their disability, the law stated that they deserved an education. If a child had violent outbursts on a regular basis, they were labeled EBD (emotionally/behaviorally disturbed) and could be removed from the public school system, but they still deserved an education, so they came to us. The school consisted of one classroom for EBD kids aged 6-9, one for 9-12 year olds and another one for the most violent teenagers. None of our classrooms exceeded 12 children and all of them had a primary teacher and one assistant to preserve a ratio of 6/1.
The school also had several classrooms for children with physical disabilities and several for the mentally handicapped child. It was a small school but could easily care for and educate the children that needed our services. During my time at the school there were only two 10-year old boys with autism in all of Colorado Springs. I had both of them in my classroom. Their symptoms were common for the condition. They could not make eye contact, their language was impaired, their hands flapped when nervous, they didn’t know how to interact with other children as their social skills were so limited, they didn’t want to be touched and they were not affectionate. One of the boys was being raised by his father because that was the era of the Bettleheim theory. Dr. Bettleheim believed and taught that it was the mother’s lack of love that caused autistic children to withdraw inside themselves. As in this child’s case, mothers often left the family from shame and guilt. I was assigned solely to this child in hopes that I could bond with him. I didn’t bring him out of his autistic world, but chiropractic did. But, that’s another story for another time.
In 1975 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed and all of these children were mainstreamed into the public school system. This new law was designed to make sure every school provided the specialized care and individualized education that every child deserves despite their disabilities.
Gradually and steadily, the number of children requiring special education due to learning disabilities began to rise. By 1990, the rates were becoming quite alarming and the cost of providing education for these children was putting a strain on all school systems. One friend of mine, who was a superintendent for a large school system, once told me that the cost of providing the educational needs of every child was getting so high that he had to put pressure on teachers to stop labeling children with learning disabilities.
In 2003, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 615,894 children over the age of 14 left the educational system without graduating. It was reported that of those children, 359,616 had special learning disabilities, 68,673 had mental retardation, and 95,658 had an emotional disturbance. The remaining children had a wide range of additional physical disabilities. (1)
Recently, The National Center for Education Statistics reported that:
“In the school year 2012–13, a higher percentage of children and youths ages 3–21 received special education services under IDEA for specific learning disabilities than for any other type of disability. A specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. In 2012–13, some 35 percent of all children and youths receiving special education services had specific learning disabilities, 21 percent had speech or language impairments, and 12 percent had other health impairments (including having limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, or diabetes). Children and youths with autism, intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, or emotional disturbances each accounted for between 6 and 8 percent of students served under IDEA. Children and youths with multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, traumatic brain injuries, or deaf-blindness each accounted for 2 percent or less of those served under IDEA.” (2)
What has happened to our children?
In the 70’s, autism was so rare that it was estimated to be 1/10,000. Around 1989, the rate of children being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder had escalated so rapidly that in 2000 the CDC started collecting the data of children born after 1992. Other countries around the world also started gathering the data as they too saw the rise in ASD. By 2014, the estimated rate of autism spectrum disorders had increased to 1/68 and this rate has continued to rise. (3) Just as most people know someone in their family who has cancer, now most people know someone who has a child on the spectrum or who has a genetic anomaly.
What is it? What happened during the 1980’s to cause this change in the health of children around the world. Vaccinations? Genetically modified food? Environmental Toxins? Drug therapies? Maybe it was all of the above combined with the common link between all industrialized countries – the sudden and rapid use of ultrasound energy to investigate and monitor the hidden world of the developing human.
When a child is brought to me for Chiropractic care, a thorough history is taken with information concerning the prenatal, birth and postnatal periods. Over the years, I have made observations that I couldn’t ignore.
Observation #1: The children today who are labeled ASD are often loveable, make eye contact and don’t exhibit self-stimulating behavior at the same level as children with ASD did long ago. Their symptoms fall into a very wide spectrum of sensory/motor and processing disorders.
Observation #2: Most children are fully vaccinated and parents of autistic children commonly report that they know for a fact that their child changed soon after a vaccination.
Observation #3: A high percentage of autistic children who have come into my practice in the last few years have a history of a flu shot being given during pregnancy.
Observation #4: A high percentage of the children on the spectrum are gluten and casein reactive.
Observation #5: Many pregnant patients now have a transvaginal ultrasound at 6 weeks to confirm pregnancy and another at 8weeks, 12 weeks, and 20 weeks. The number of sonograms varies from just one as a baseline to one at every visit, depending on the birth attendant and the patient’s insurance coverage. Heart tone dopplers are used at every prenatal visit, can be purchased easily for home use and are used every 15 minutes during labor and delivery unless the external or internal ultrasound monitor is being used continuously.
Observation #6: Families who have a child on the autism spectrum and several others in the family who are not autistic report that the child who developed autism was given Tylenol before a vaccine while the others were not. (Research published by Entrophy in 2012 reported empirical data confirming the connection between autism and acetaminophen use. Acetaminophen stops the liver from removing the toxins, mercury and/or aluminum injected with the vaccines.) (40)
Since the beginning of its use around 1968, parents and scientists have suspected that ultrasound energy in the form of transvaginal and abdominal sonograms, fetal heart rate dopplers, and external fetal monitoring devices (anything that requires a gel to transport the energy signal) might be having an adverse effect on the developing cells of our unborn children. (5) CNN reported on these early warnings of ultrasound use in the mid 1980’s. The report can be accessed on my YouTube channel (drcarolphillips) http://youtu.be/-8szqgtX_GQ
Is it possible that the genetic mutations they warned us about in that report are responsible for our children’s inability to process and eliminate the high levels of toxins and heavy metals that their bodies are bombarded with on a daily basis? Is it possible that ultrasound energy is responsible for the high rate of organ defects, premature births and infant mortality? (6) There are so many consequences to using new technology without really knowing what the long term effects are going to be. Are we just beginning to see those consequences on a worldwide scale?
Research on the safety of ultrasound energy was never performed on pregnant women before its use became standard prenatal practice. As a society, we all agreed to just use it, trust it, and wait for the long term results to show themselves. We all trusted the manufacturers when they said that sound energy was safe. We trusted our medical professionals who listened to those manufacturers and told us it was safe. There were no double-blind controlled trials conducted to prove it wasn’t, so we all agreed it was. Innocent until proven guilty? Safe until proven unsafe?
As the third-generation of children who have been exposed to ultrasound energy move into adulthood, we must ask ourselves if we repeated history and allowed our children to be instruments of knowledge gained from first-hand experience. It wouldn’t be the first time we judged something as safe until proven otherwise. From 1930-1960 it was believed that the new technology of X-ray was perfectly safe for the unborn child. All of our OB textbooks said it was safe. Obstetricians assured their patients that they were receiving the best of prenatal care by getting their unborn child x-rayed. It was only after the rate of cancer escalated so dramatically in the following 30 years that it was finally acknowledged that it wasn’t as safe as they thought.
Many doctors, scientists, and parents are currently convinced that there is no association between ultrasounds and subsequent childhood mental and physical problems and believe that a woman can safely have as many sonograms as needed or desired. Transvaginal sonograms are now routinely used at six-weeks to confirm the pregnancy. Follow-up sonograms are now common at eight, twelve and twenty weeks. Ultrasound video’s, 3-D and 4-D pictures can be performed at any time and by anyone who purchases the technology. There are no regulations imposed by the FDA. (7)
Currently, this belief is based primarily on several randomized controlled trials conducted between 1993 and 2004. In every study, women were given their first ultrasound after 18 weeks gestation. Follow-up studies revealed there were no significant long-term differences in growth and development in the children who received one sonogram around the 18th week and those that received multiple sonograms after the 18th week. (7-11)? These studies failed us as parents and doctors in several ways.
First of all, the researchers eliminated children who were born with congenital abnormalities. Early research into the technology showed that ultrasounds were found to cause subtle genetic mutations that could result in congenital abnormalities.
Second of all, the researchers eliminated any mother from the study who had a transvaginal or abdominal sonogram prior to 18 weeks, (when cell division is most vulnerable to outside influence, and when brain development would have been affected the most).
Observations can take you just so far. I started further investigations into the possible correlation between the excessive use of ultrasound energy and current mental and physical health concerns by creating a survey that my patients could answer quickly and easily in the office. I was forced to eliminate questions concerning ultrasound energy in the form of dopplers used at every visit and external fetal monitors used at every hospital birth due to the many variables involved. I then had to limit my questions to the use of transvaginal and abdominal sonograms and trust the memory of the parents, which I knew could be inaccurate. But, it was the best I could do to gather some type of data about the frequency and timing of sonogram intervention, keeping in mind that those parameters varied greatly as well.
Parents were asked to log the number of sonogram exams during week 1-10 (cell division); 11-20 (brain growth and development); 21-35 (organ growth and development) or 36-42 (physical growth and development).
The following is a brief summary of my first 200 patient surveys:
|No Health Issues||72/200||Average of 2.5 sonograms|
|Sensory Processing/LD||45/200||Average of 4.3 sonograms|
|Autism||26/200||Average of 5.5 sonograms|
|Digestive Difficulties||21/200||Average of 5.8 sonograms|
|Premature with SPD||5/200||Average of 10.6 sonograms|
|Cellular Defects||19/200||Average of 14.4 sonograms|
|Premature with Autism||4/200||Average of 20 sonograms|
This initial in-house investigation confirmed a possible association between the number of exposures to ultrasound during pregnancy, the timing of the ultrasound exposure and the subsequent severity of disabilities. As a doctor, I know that observations can be tainted by a skewed data set and a prejudice developed by the population we treat. Therefore, I have taken steps to reach beyond my own patient base, as I realize a large and powerful data set consisting of children with disabilities and healthy children is needed.
In response to this need, an on-line survey has been created to gather this basic information. You can help with this on-going investigation by logging onto the following link and taking 2-3 minutes to record your child’s exposure to ultrasound in the form of a transvaginal or abdominal sonograms and record his/her health history.
Your input will help us investigate whether the association between early and repeated sonogram exposures and learning disabilities are grounded in reality or just conjecture. Please share the link, forward it, and post it. Send it to parents of all ages. Parents whose children were born before 1970 are invaluable as well. They will be able to fill out the survey in seconds and will serve as a control group.
Participation is the key, the knowledge lies in the numbers.
Dr. Phillips has been a practicing chiropractor for 28 years. She began teaching postgraduate classes in 1991 and later founded Dynamic Body Balancing, which is taught as an adjunct therapy for doctors, therapists and parents of children with disabilities. She is the author of Hands of Love: Seven Steps to the Miracle of Birth and the producer of several education video’s.
Dr. Carol Phillips combines 16 years of experience attending more than 700 births with the personal knowledge and wisdom of more than two dozen parents to create a road map that will guide expectant families through nine months of anticipation. Hands of Love will open the eyes of the expectant parents to a world of possibilities. Eliminating fear of the unknown, Hands of Love will help a mother understand the relationship between balance in all structures of her body and success in having her baby naturally. Valuable methods are also taught for reducing premature contractions, back labor, dystocia and in-utero constraint. Special chapters are also devoted to having a spiritual birth even with a c-section delivery or delivery after prenatal loss.