Clinical Ethics:147775092098357 (forthcoming)

Prenatal ultrasound use is skyrocketing despite limited evidence of improved outcomes. One factor driving this trend is the widely recognized psychological appeal of real-time fetal imaging. Meanwhile, considering imperfect safety evidence, U.S. professional guidelines dictate that prenatal ultrasound—a screening test—should be governed by expected clinical benefits—an opportunity for intervention. However, when women’s healthcare professionals themselves are pregnant, their access to ultrasound technology permits informal, personal use that may deviate from standard-of-care, e.g., for reassurance. Highlighting a poignant case wherein a pregnant obstetrician’s personal ultrasound use had unforeseen negative consequences, we explore this issue within context of professional ethics and informal medical care. We discuss how women’s health professionals’ self-care may influence and inform prenatal care at large. We advocate curtailing informal prenatal ultrasound use, but also potentially broadening accepted indications for or relaxing proscriptions against ultrasounds for patients. Further research and updated, evidence-based, ethically-sound guidelines are needed.
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DOI 10.1177/1477750920983576
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