LETHBRIDGE: Another step forward for Lethbridge's burgeoning technology sector, as a new 3D ultrasound clinic opened its doors Monday.
Owner and operator Tammy Nunweiler, who has a background in nursing, says her idea to open a branch of the UC Baby franchise (the 22nd UC Baby clinic Canada-wide) came when she was pregnant with her first child.
She says the standard 2D diagnostic ultrasound test didn't meet her expectations of what she thought meeting her baby for the first time would be like.
"It was very technical, very medical. And that's the purpose of it. To diagnose whether or not the baby's growing correctly," she says. "I thought that I could look at the screen the entire time and see my baby, but of the 15 min session, I maybe got to see the last minute of it."
This new privatized clinic allows soon-to-be-moms to book longer sessions to see their babies in 3D, record a video, even do a live broadcast with family over the internet. Each test is administered by a licensed ultrasound technician, and uses angled sound waves to get more detailed pictures and video of the child in the womb.
Nunweiler says the lifelike pictures help build stronger connections between mother and baby.
"Sometimes you don't understand that there's something growing inside you until you actually see that baby, so the 3D ultrasound makes it a lot more real," she says. "It's much more tangible, something that you can take home rather than just a black and white."
Some Canadian health organizations have raised concerns about 3D ultrasound sessions
Health Canada has come out against using ultrasound technology for non-medical purposes. But the stance isn't based on any known danger, rather a lack of research on possible risks. The group has created a web page devoted to purely recreational ultrasound, recommending parents "not expose their unborn babies to fetal ultrasound for the purpose of making 'keepsake' videos."
"There have been millions of these examinations [medical, diagnostic ultrasounds] over the past few decades with no confirmed health risks for the baby or the mother. This finding is consistent with the majority of scientific studies on the effects of ultrasound," reads the web page.
"Although this is very reassuring, there is also suggestive evidence that there may be a biological effect on the fetus even during diagnostic use. Research is ongoing to ensure the continued safety of diagnostic fetal ultrasound."
Health Canada says non-medical ultrasounds that tell parents nothing about the health of the baby don't justify the possible risks involved with prolonged sound wave exposure.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta appears to have a more lenient approach to the technology. Kelly Eby, a spokesperson for the organization, says the college is responsible only for accrediting medical ultrasound clinics.
Private, non-medical clinics like UC Baby are not accredited by the regulating body, so she says her organization can't make any guarantees about whether such a facility is "appropriate or safe." She says the college is reluctant to give such clinics a negative or positive stamp. Instead, she calls it a "buyer beware" scenario, where parents need to do the research themselves on individual private clinics.
Photos: Examples of some 3D ultrasound pictures.