Mums-to-be are splashing out millions of pounds on unnecessary baby scans during their pregnancy and fuelling a culture of ‘scanxiety’, a study has found.
For many mums the only time they get to see their unborn baby is during the routine NHS scans they attend at 12 and 20 weeks to check the baby’s development. But almost a third of pregnant women are forking out for expensive private ultrasounds as well.
The poll of 2,000 mums by parenting site ChannelMum.com found that despite fears that too many high-intensity scans could pose a threat to the foetus, a fifth of mums having extra scans pay out for two, while 18% buy three or more.
The research also revealed that one in fifty mums-to-be have admitted to paying for an astonishing nine or ten extra scans, which works out to be more than one a month.
The reasons the pregnant woman cited for undergoing the private procedures include more than a third (36%) admitting it was because they felt “anxious about their baby” and a further third to simply “check in” on their unborn child.
The results have lead to some experts dubbing the phenomenon Scanxiety.
And private firms are cashing in on the growing unease of pregnant women with scan images costing from £50 up to £1,000 for a repeat package, while some clinics also offer discount vouchers and promotions on sites like Groupon to attract customers. As a result, mums paying out for private scans spend an average of £217 extra on the treatments while pregnant, which is the equivalent to a £42m a year industry.
But more of a concern is that some clinics are offering long scans of more than 30 minutes, against medical advice, while others use unregistered and inexperienced sonographers who are not Health & Care Professional Council registered and therefore unable to provide proper diagnosis, professional support or a referral back in to the NHS if a there is a problem with the pregnancy.
Even more disturbing are the reports of ‘pop-up’ scan firms offering to carry out the treatment at women’s homes rather than in a clinic, which could lead to women being misdiagnosed.
Speaking of the results, Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum.com, said: “Having a scan can be a wonderful way to bond with your baby and provide reassurance when you are worried.”
“But mums need to remember it is a medical procedure and should to be treated very seriously.”
“Clinics which allow multiple repeat scans without a medical reason could be risking the baby’s health – so let’s hope the scan industry isn’t the next medical scandal,” she continued.
“When choosing a clinic, never be afraid to ask if they are regulated and whether their sonographers are properly qualified.”
Mervi Jokinen, Practice and Standards Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Current advice by the National Institute For Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is to have an early scan and then a screening scan for anomalies at around 18-20 weeks.”
“These are recommendations based on the available research and takes into account the harm and benefit of scans,” he continued. “Any further scans beyond these recommendations should be clinically indicated and based on the needs of the women and her developing baby. This is about providing the safest and most appropriate level of care for mother and baby.”
Jokinen said it was concerning that women need this extra assurance during their pregnancy. “It may reflect a need for women to have more confidence in their pregnancy and this type of reassurance and support is, and can, be provided by their midwife,” he explained. “I would encourage women to talk to their developing baby, learn about their baby’s movements, feel and touch and learn the baby’s behaviour before birth.”
He went on to say that anxieties caused by reliance on technology can have an impact on a woman’s pregnancy, causing undue stress and anxiety.
“There are clear and well developed pathways for women within the screening programmes if any problems are picked up. I also have concerns about what support, further screening and diagnosis are provided by private providers of scans if a problem is found.”
TIPS TO FIND A REPUTABLE SCANNING CLINIC:
1) Check that your clinic is registered with the Care Quality Commission, as it will meet professional standards.
2) Look online for clinic reviews and check how long the company has been established.
3) Ask the clinic abut staff qualifications and experience. Any reputable firm will be happy to help. Your sonographer should be HCPC qualified.
4) Some clinics do offer discounts to make the treatment affordable for everyone. However, if you are being pressured to buy more packages than you need or can afford, consider going elsewhere. It’s your body, your baby and your choice.
5) If you feel overly anxious, speak with your midwife. Your scanning firm will work with him or her. And remember if you have a medical need, the NHS will scan you as part of your treatment.
To help reassure mums who want to discover what their baby looks like during each week of pregnancy, ChannelMum.com has launched its first 42-weeks of pregnancy videos complete with real scan footage. See the videos at channelmum.com/week-by-week/
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