Foetus parties show "commercialisation" of pregnancy, says top midwife

Stephen Adams

The country's top midwife has raised concerns about what she described as "the worrying trend towards the commercialisation of pregnancy", such as the increase in "foetus parties". 

Professor Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said many women now had greater expectations and aspirations about childbirth.

But she warned those who went over the top in celebrating their pregnancy - which she derided as "yummy mummy" or "WAG" parenting - could need intensive counselling if something went wrong before birth.

Diagnostic scans were often now regarded as "entertainment", she said, which was "a far cry from their original purpose". Private firms were cashing in by offering "VIP" packages for up to £185, she noted.

Wayne Rooney, the footballer, and his wife Coleen paid £300 to hire a 4D ultrasound scan machine in 2009, inviting over family and friends for the party. She subsequently gave birth to a healthy baby boy called Kai.

But, writing for the BBC News website's Scrubbing Up column, Prof Warwick argued: "I think the worrying trend towards the commercialisation of pregnancy and trend in 'foetus parties' can add to the burden and can increase the expectation for mothers which midwives then have to deal with.

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"There is a worry that supposed diagnostic scans are now being used for entertainment. Across the country services for 'foetus parties' are popping up.

"There are companies across the country that provide gifts for parties featuring images of the foetus, from a fridge magnet for £3 to a teddy with 3D scan image for £15.

"Some companies provide a champagne celebration scan package for £165 and a VIP scan package for £185. This is a far cry from the original purpose of ultrasound."

Prof Warwick said ultrasound was intended to be a screening tool to help detect babies with serious problems and ensure pregnancy management was tailored appropriately.

"For example, if a baby is found to be growing slowly a decision may be taken to deliver early," Prof Warwick said.

"However, the trend towards using ultrasound and technology via 'foetus parties' as a 'consumer tool' raises various ethical questions."

She warned: "If a woman is celebrating much more overtly than she might normally do regarding a pregnancy at an early stage during the pregnancy and then, at a later stage, a serious problem emerges, a mother may need increased counselling."

Prof Warwick also asked: "What about the foetus? Is this 'yummy mummy' or WAG parenting taken to its absolute zenith and what does it do to the child being 'branded' in this way?"

Scans are usually taken at 12 and 20 weeks. Most NHS hospitals and maternity clinics only offer the basic form of scan, giving a fuzzy black and white picture. Most parents-to-be are happy with that image, and the early suggestion of what he or she will be like.

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