Ultrasound Scanning in Obstetrics:
A Necessary View of the
Child to Be Born
Maddy Brenot, M.D.
Jean-Louis Brenot, M.D.
In the last five years in France we have seen a considerable increase in the number of ultrasonic examinations performed during pregnancy. Previously this examination was limited to about 18 percent of all pregnant women, but now it has reached the point where it is performed on an average of four times during each pregnancy. Its huge popularity among professionals and expectant mothers is such that neither group can any longer imagine going without it.
Because of its simplicity and reliability, ultrasound is now administered to everyone, and it is this obligatory factor which is of interest to us here. Formerly, this examination was prescribed by the physician in charge of high-risk pregnancies and only after lengthy discussion between the doctor and the future mother. Today, on the contrary, it is no longer a question of choice. Ultrasound, now a routine part of the examination in prenatal consultations, exposes parents and doctors to a compulsory
viewing of the child. Therefore we have wondered how those concerned have prepared themselves to cope with a technique that undermines the validity of the doctor's clinical examination and overturns all previous practice and experience by imposing on the viewers an animated image of the fetus, the clarity of which threatens the mother's capacity to dream and imagine. There have already been a few observations relevant to the emotional consequences of the widespread use of ultrasound (for example, Cornauau, 1982; Chadeyron, 1978; Soulé, 1982). Watching and listening to the participants, we have tried to pinpoint the compromises brought into play in order to preserve their pleasure in thought and imagination in spite of ultrasound, or even because of it.
with the Child's Image
The psychological reactions reported here are based on numerous interviews with many pregnant women in the Outpatient Department before, during, and after the ultrasound____________________