Despite the widely used practice of performing ultrasounds during the third trimester of pregnancy, a study out of the Netherlands showed that doing so did not assuage anxiety among expectant mothers or significantly impact mother-to-infant bonding.

“In case of no abnormalities, [ultrasounds are] believed to provide reassurance about the well-being of the child and thereby reduce pregnancy-specific anxiety levels,” Myrte Westerneng, PhD, a visiting fellow in midwifery science at Amsterdam University Medical Centers, and colleagues wrote in Birth. “In addition, getting a real-time image of their child has been suggested to contribute to prenatal mother-to-infant bonding.”

One in five women meets the diagnostic criteria for at least one peripartum anxiety disorder, according to data from a previously published meta-analysis. Westerneng and colleagues noted that “both pregnancy-specific anxiety and mother-to-infant bonding have received considerable attention over the years.”

In the new study, the researchers assigned 1,275 low-risk pregnant women receiving midwife-led care to an intervention group (n = 841) or a control group. In the intervention group, women were offered two additional ultrasounds to monitor fetal growth: one between 28 and 30 weeks gestation and the other between 34 and 36 weeks gestation. The ages of all women ranged from the late 20s to early 30s, and the majority were white.

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