Aim: To assess whether a very high number of prenatal ultrasonographies affects birthweight.
Population and methods: We studied 1203 consecutive women who delivered in Siena Hospital. Exclusion criteria were the following: twin pregnancy, maternal smoke or alcohol ingestion in pregnancy, gestational diabetes, placenta or umbilical cord defects, gestational age at birth <37 weeks, and major malformations. We analysed birthweights in relation to the number of ultrasound examinations. 120 women had undergone a minimum number (three or less-base group) and 167 a maximum number (nine or more-intensive group) of fetal US scans. We compared the birthweight of the children born in these two groups and the correlation between number of US scans and birthweight in the whole population.
Results: Mean birthweights of the base and the intensive groups were 3389.5+/-434 g and 3268+/-438 g, respectively (p=0.0206). Nevertheless, the regression study did not show a significant correlation between birthweight and number of US scans. The mean age of the base group was 30.1+/-5.3 years and that of the intensive group was 32.09+/-4.99 years (p=0.0018). Eighteen women of base group underwent amniocenteses vs. 71 in the intensive group (p<0.001). In the base group 57.5% of the mothers had low school level vs. 24.4% in the intensive group (p<0.01).
Conclusion: More studies are needed to confirm or exclude any relationship between an intensive use of prenatal ultrasounds and birthweight, and to exclude other effects of ultrasounds on children's health. Moreover, our study shows an excess of prenatal diagnostic procedures, the causes of which should be investigated.