Prenatal ultrasounds are a great idea, but for baby too?

I told you the last story to tell you a different one. My father is not a computer scientist but as a mechanical engineer and he liked to build things in his spare time in a home workshop with many tools with which he could custom make hand engineered parts built to fit whatever the project required.

As a professional mechanical engineer he worked on national defense projects for a company who contracted with the U.S. government.  He didn’t own the patents on any of his work as a employee; all rights to his inventions and collaborations remained the property of the company. Feeling proud to work in defense of your country is a reward in itself.

One of the projects he worked on in collaboration with two other engineers is still in active production. Underwater detection of submarines is performed with sound-waves, somewhat like whale’s communicating with songs that travel across oceans, or like bat’s sending out clicks and listening for the rebound in echo location. Fascinating and not my area to try to explain in more detail. The Sonar detecting equipment that my father helped invent is still in production for the defense of the nation and I am very proud of him and his work.

Since the initial invention of the sound-wave technology the same “ultrasound” technology was adapted for use to make black and white images of the interior of the body that are formed of soft tissue and can’t be viewed with an X-Ray in the way that hard bone tissue can be viewed. The ultrasound technology can be used to view organs or look for tumors and it is now regularly used to view and make images of a fetus during it’s prenatal development.

The use of ultrasound imaging for viewing babies has become almost standard as an early proof of pregnancy even though it is not necessary as lab tests checking hormonal changes are also performed.

The use of ultrasound imaging during pregnancies has become standard in the United States, however women in China may not receive an ultrasound during their pregnancies.

To skip back to the whale song momentarily — try to visualize the sound-waves of a deep long note or tone that is strong enough to travel across an ocean and now the bat clicking. The deep long note travels across the ocean from one whale to another and is heard as communication.  Or the clicks of a dolphin or a bat are sent out in long deep or shorter more rapid notes that bounces off an object and returns to be interpreted as a map or echo location. Now try to visualize the ultrasound technician holding an ultrasound device that sends long deep notes through the abdomen into the watery environment surrounding or making up the body of the baby. Sound travels well through liquid and it would be loud.

Research studies on the effects of ultrasound imaging on the expected fetus took place in China with a group of women who were requesting abortions. Other studies with animal subjects have replicated part of the results which showed that ultrasound could cause fetal cells to move out of place within the developing infant. Ultrasound waves when held in one place for a longer time and at a closer distance were found to cause actual movement of fetal cells out of their normal positions.  [The animal-based research study.]

Other risks were also noted in the research performed in China, most significantly when the imaging wand was used for ten minutes instead of three and when it was used in an internal, vaginal position instead of using a larger external sweeping motion across the expanse of the abdomen. [pubmed/11776185 ]

The other risks to the infant included increased heat especially within the bony cavity of the skull which has been studied elsewhere without any babies. A container of water was found to consistently have an increase in temperature occur after just one minute of ultrasound exposure. Specific types of ultrasound devices vary somewhat and the recommendations and cautions regarding ultrasound use in pregnancy are available in this research article: [PMC4547707 ] Avoiding use of ultrasounds during the first trimester is recommended in the article and using the lowest settings possible for patients who have a medical need for ultrasound imaging is recommended for prenatal patients in later stages of pregnancy.

Gastroschisis is a rare medical condition in a developing fetus that might require an ultrasound for diagnosis around 18-20 weeks/gestation as surgery would be needed shortly after the baby’s birth as the condition would likely be deadly otherwise. An opening in the infant’s abdomen near the umbilical cord allows some of the intestine and/or liver to be outside of the body. []

Protecting the developing brain of the fetus is important throughout the pregnancy but  the greatest risk to the fetus from ultrasounds may occur during the first trimester according to a research study that took place elsewhere than China.

  • A book, 50 Human Studies, in Utero, Conducted in Modern China, Indicate Extreme Risk for Prenatal Ultrasound: A New Bibliography by Jim West, a non-Chinese scientist, is available in which the findings from the Chinese studies are summarized for English readers and a Japanese translation is now also available. The book is mentioned on the following site along with a variety of links to research on the topic of the use of ultrasounds prenatally and a potential increased risk for autism developing in the infant later in life:
  • A lengthy review of the book and the history of how it came to be written by Jim West is available here: Human Studies.
  • An excerpt summarizes the recommendation regarding ultrasound use prenatally based on findings by a project that ultimately involved approximately 100 scientists in China and 2,700 maternal-fetal pairs, between 1988-2011 :

“From these human studies, Professor Ruo Feng, of the Acoustic Institute at Nanjing University, published guidelines in 2000:

“Commercial or educational fetal ultrasound imaging should be strictly eliminated. Ultrasound for the identification of fetal sex and fetal entertainment imaging should be strictly eliminated. For the best early pregnancy, avoid ultrasound.”

Ruo Feng, who reviewed many of the studies, stipulated that routine ultrasound be avoided. Only if there were exceptional medical indications should ultrasound be allowed, and at minimum intensity. Sessions should be very brief, no more than 3 minutes, 5 minutes at most. Multiple sessions should be avoided because hazards are cumulative. Human studies had found sensitive organs damaged at 1 minute exposure.

The Chinese studies echo and confirm the earlier, ignored and rejected, 1984 “Consensus Statement”, published by the National Institute of Health and signed by the preeminent American scientists of that era. 2″  – Human Studies

  • I learned of this research on the potential risks of ultrasound when researching other topics on possible causes of autism. Many factors may be involved in the risk of autism developing, which, in combination, can lead to changes occurring in the developing fetus that aren’t obvious in the infant but which may flair up into an autoimmune-like reaction during toddler-hood if there are enough negative factors and not enough or an adequate variety of nutrients and other positive factors in the child’s home life. Genetic susceptibilities are also involved but none identified thus far have been found to lead to autism without there being additional environmental toxins or nutrient deficiencies involved.
  • Autism can be caused by the use of thalidomide prenatally. That wouldn’t be recommended as the medication can also cause physical birth defects when used during a pregnancy, however it is a medication used for some non-pregnancy related conditions and there might be an occasional unplanned pregnancy. The point is not only that planning pregnancies is recommended so that prenatal vitamins can be started months in advance (ideally a year prior to conception for least risk of autism in one study); and so that potentially toxic medications can be gradually stopped before trying to conceive; but that if autism can be caused by a medication then how could it also be a natural variation?
  • Family studies suggest that personality traits slightly similar to autistic characteristics can be more common in the family members of patients with autism. Protecting the developing fetus from ultrasounds that are too intense, or go on for too long a time causing over-heating can be a simple way to help protect the child’s true genetic potential. Higher functioning people with Asperger’s like symptoms and skills may represent the more natural variation end of the autism spectrum while patients at the least functioning end of the spectrum have likely been exposed to more variety of toxins and possibly with less nutrients available or less genetic detoxification ability available to excrete the toxins.
  • The use of ultrasounds in addition to other factors may all be adding up to increased rate of autism that has been seen in our modern culture.
  • Using equipment that was originally designed to  detect submarines to take pictures of a developing infant is a practice to use cautiously rather than allowing it to become typical for all pregnancies or to be available for non-medical reasons, possibly performed by non-medical staff who may not follow safe procedures in the pursuit of a better image. In some areas the technology has been used for photo-booth type purposes, “Have you noticed ultrasound boutiques popping up in strip malls?”. Read more: Ultrasound Concerns for Baby’s Development.
  • If the damage can accumulate with repeated exposure as suggested by the statement by Dr. Ruo Feng then each additional ultrasound may be adding to the risk of a neurological conditions such as autism.

Ultrasound technology is currently being used medically in other ways then prenatal or soft tissue imaging. It may be used specifically as a heat treatment on sore or cramped muscles during a physical therapy session.  And still in the research phases, high frequency ultrasound waves are being used at more intense strengths to actually kill cancer cells. That would be a safer technique for the health of the surrounding tissue than using radiation on cancerous tumors. X-ray type radiation is directed at the tumor in a rotating manner so that surrounding tissue gets less rays while the tumor gets a maximum dose in order to kill the cancerous cells.

So killing cancer cells with high frequency soundwaves sounds like a great idea compared to being rotated on a table while an X-ray is directed at a tumor. Eating healthy and not getting a tumor also sounds good.

  • Having an ultrasound during the first trimester of a pregnancy doesn’t sound good to me. Disclosure – I declined any ultrasounds for both of my pregnancies. I had listened to my dad play whale songs for too many hours of my youth to want my babies to have a sound wave ray gun directed at them. My thought at the time, which research suggests was an accurate concern, was, “I don’t want to risk scrambling my baby’s brain just to see what sex it is. I’d prefer to wait and see anyway.”
  • At the time of my pregnancies, ultrasounds were still a fairly “new-fangled” invention or service which was offered as a choice rather than being expected with every single “I’m expecting a baby” announcement. Send a photo of the urine test stick instead or the results from the official lab test. Once you’ve seen one black and white fuzzy image of a blob, you’ve seen them all – you can trust me on that. Ultrasound images have become so standard they are used as proof of pregnancy for agencies that offer free services to women who are pregnant and I admired a lot of little adorable blobs — women can be very protective of their babies, no matter what they look like.

So protecting your newly conceived baby’s brain seems worth considering , not just the fuzzy image for a birth announcement.

In high risk pregnancies there may be an increased number of ultrasounds recommended, possibly just to be cautious. It is okay as a patient to ask questions about medical necessity and what is truly necessary and what is possibly being recommended to look thorough in case of a potential malpractice suit. If the ultrasound tests themselves may be increasing risk to the infant though, then how cautious is it to use them more often just because a woman’s pregnancy has some high risk factor?

It’s okay to ask questions. It’s your baby, your body, and your baby’s brain and future at risk.

  • A whale song combined with music by a musician I listened to as a child can be heard online; Whale Lullaby, with music by Paul Winter: Youtube.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.


The herbicide glyphosate is similar to glycine, an amino acid

The herbicide glyphosate was originally patented as an antibiotic and as a mineral chelator (a protein that can bind and transport minerals). It has been in use as an agricultural herbicide since 1975. However it’s use greatly increased in the last ten years since genetically modified Round-Up Ready crops were developed. A professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been researching glyphosate and it’s possible role in the development of autism.

Professor Seneff gave two presentations at an Autism One conference earlier this year. The PowerPoint slides to the lectures are available in links included in the Tweets below, click these links for the pdfs to each video:…

The first video includes more information about the chemical similarity between glyphosate and glycine. Glycine is an amino acid that provides methyl groups. Glyphosate is very similarly shaped but has an extra side chain and it wouldn’t provide methyl groups. It is possibly similarly shaped enough, however, for glyphosate to be incorporated into the structure of proteins instead of glycine. It would be like a puzzle piece that fits into another piece but won’t allow any other pieces to be added. Glyphosate may fit in glycine’s spot within a protein but then wouldn’t provide any methyl groups and the extra side chain could interfere with receptor function – like having an extension cord with prongs that no longer can fit into an electric socket because the socket is already blocked with something else.

The risk to health if this is true could be significant. Many proteins contain glycine and any one of them might be important in a variety of ways which glyphosate could disrupt. This is in very early stages of research but the impact could also affect vaccinations because the collagen used to culture material for vaccinations could contain glyphosate instead of glycine if the animals from which the collagen was obtained had been raised with feed containing glyphosate residue.

Zika virus that grew in an environment that contained glyphosate might have it incorporated into proteins instead of glycine which could be making the disease far more dangerous prenatally than it had been in past decades before glyphosate became widely used. Zika infections had not been associated with microcephaly until recently. The second video goes into more detail about how glyphosate could be making Zika more dangerous.

Professor Seneff explains in more detail about the glycine/glyphosate similarity in the first video:

I will get back to this topic after rewatching the videos and taking notes on the recommendations she makes about food and lifestyle strategies for reducing glyphosate exposure or reducing glyphosate levels that may be stored within the body.

9/20/2016 Update: See the following posts for more about glycine and glyphosate:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Environmental toxins and neurodevelopmental disorders in children

A consensus statement has been released by the Project TENDR group regarding environmental toxins and the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in children which include ADHD, autism, and learning and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.  Read more:

An excerpt lists the environmental toxins the group has identified as potentially  increasing children’s risk of developing ADHD, autism or other neurodevelopmental or learning disorders (the bold font was added by me):

The chemicals and pollutants highlighted in the consensus statement as contributing to children’s learning, intellectual and behavioral impairments are:

* Organophosphate (OP) pesticides

* Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) used as flame retardants

* Combustion-related air pollutants, which include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter

* Lead, with primary sources of water pipes and paint

* Mercury

* Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), industrial chemicals that were commonly used in electrical equipment and now pollute landfills and water

More information on each of these compounds and how families can protect themselves from them is on the Project TENDR website:

A comparison to  a checklist on one of my older post’s for toxins to avoid in the hopes of preventing autism included four of the groups: 2. PBDEs, 6. PCBs, 4. lead and 5. (methyl) mercury. And 3. formaldehyde is also a combustion-related air pollutant but I will need to add the other combustion-related air pollutants and 1. Organophophate pesticides.

Other risks for neurodevelopmental disorders developing in children may include:

A list of toxins to avoid can be useful for generating a list of foods and lifestyle choices that may be more beneficial or more of a risk for an expectant infant.  Note the phrases “May be,” “might help,” or “might harm” are suggestions rather than firm claims; there are no guarantees in life. Evidence based medicine likes to suggest that there is enough evidence to support a recommendation as being conclusive but the evidence typically does not provide guidance that is clearly 100% for or against something and generally is averaging results for a large group of people so the “average” patient may not even exist in real life. Results might have been clustered at extremes, with a group that was helped and a group that was harmed by the research substance. The average statistic would be from the middle of both groups and might suggest that all people will be helped that middle amount of a little bit rather than that half the people may be helped a lot and half the people may be harmed a lot. People vary in their body’s ability to detoxify and in their body’s supply of nutrients available for detoxifying or for growth and repair. Evidence based medicine frequently looks at the averages of all patients rather than looking at individual results.

Preventative health guidance can suggest that something may help or may be more harmful ,but on an individual basis a health suggestion can not be guaranteed to prevent ADHD or autism in every case, anymore than vaccinations can be guaranteed to be safe for every individual or to never have been associated with autism as an adverse reaction in a few individuals. Vaccinations have been associated with encephalitis as an adverse reaction that leads to autism like symptoms over time.

Rates that are increasing exponentially are likely to plateau or slow down at some point but do we really want to find out how much worse an exponential rate can get before trying to do something about it? Autism used to occur at a rate of about 4.5 children in 10,000 just a few decades ago (1966), in 1994 the rate was as high as 15-40 children per 10,000, and now it is somewhere closer to 1 child in 68 or 1 child in 45 depending on which study or group of children you’re looking at. In 2012 the rate was 1 child in 88.


Clinicians can identify ASD in children as young as two years old, although children from ethnic minority groups are usually diagnosed at a later age than their Caucasian counterparts. ASD is commonly comorbid with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, intellectual disability, epilepsy and other genetic conditions like fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis, congenital rubella syndrome, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Angelman syndrome. Until recently, there was little, if any, epidemiological research focusing on the prevalence of ASD in adults. In 2011, one study reported the prevalence of ASD in an adult sample to be 1%, with higher rates for men (1.8%) than women (0.2%) (Brugha T et al, Arch Gen Psych 2011;68:459–466).

Similarly, there are few studies evaluating outcomes and prognosis for adults with ASD. Given current prevalence rates, the population of adults with autism is expected to rise 625% by the year 2030, and the estimated lifetime cost per individual with autism, including caregiving costs and lost productivity, can reach up to $3.2 million (Ganz M, Arch Ped Adol Med 2007;161(4):343–354).

White male children seem to be the group most at risk for developing autism, currently, and Asian children may be the group least at risk (the iodine content in sea weed may be a protective dietary factor and rice may have less risk of having the pesticides that are suspected of being neurodevelopmental toxins than wheat or corn).

The 2010 U.S. census showed a total of 138,053,563 males (49.1% of total population) and 143,368,343 females (50.9% of 281,421,906 total population).

If approximately 1.8% of adult men have autism and 0.2% of women have autism that would mean approximately 2,484,964 men and 286,736 women may have autism (2,771,700 total) and which might cost up to  $8,869,440,000,000 dollars in lifetime caregiving costs and lost productivity (almost 9 trillion dollars) — and that estimate would just be for the 2010 total. The rate of autism occurrence has increased since 2010. If the rate increases 625% by 2030 then we may expect 17,323,125 adults to have autism at a cost up to $55,434,000,000,000 in caregiving and lost productivity costs (55 trillion dollars)(and approximately 90% would be males, 15,590,812, (with a 1.8% incidence rate) and 10% females, 1,732,312 (with an 0.2% incidence rate)).

Males are more at risk and white males in particular are at greater risk for developing autism. Female hormones may be helping protect the female infants brain development or a milder form with less behavior changes may not be being diagnosed based on the current diagnostic criteria. If we would like infants to have traditional health expectations in the future then it might be worth considering that the baby factories (pregnant women) are malfunctioning at increasing rates, (autism seems to be set up during the prenatal stage that flairs up in the child later in life), and with a personal cost of increasing rates of autoimmune disease (one in nine women of childbearing years are estimated to be diagnosed with some type of autoimmune disease – (see excerpt below). Glyphosate may be inhibiting the ability to activate vitamin D which is essential for the pregnancy and the baby’s development and the woman’s autoimmune risk. Taking Vitamin D supplements can be great but expected benefits might not be seen if the CYP enzymes necessary for activating the vitamin aren’t functional due to glyphosate.

Iodine, zinc, and folate and B12 deficiencies during pregnancy also seem to be involved in increased risk of autism developing in the child later in life. And vitamin D is involved in autoimmune disease risk. Vitamin D receptors work within the immune system and help the body to be less allergic to self or for the mother to be sensitized to the expected infant’s DNA. Low vitamin D in the mother could be increasing her risk for autoimmune disease later in life (microchimerism – a few cells with infant’s DNA in the mother or cells with maternal DNA in the infant may be involved in autoimmune antibodies developing) and increasing the infant’s risk for developing autism later in life. Just giving more vitamin D might not be helping as expected if the herbicide glyphosate is inhibiting the enzymes necessary for activation of the vitamin.

Depending on which diseases are called autoimmune disease, minimally 23.5 million people in the U.S. have some type of autoimmune disease. Excerpt:

Or slice these statistics another way: while one in 69 women below the age of fifty will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to estimates, as many as one in nine women of childbearing years will be diagnosed with an autoimmune illness, which strike three times as many women as men — and most often strike patients in their prime. According to the National Institutes of Health, autoimmune disease affects far more patients than the 9 million Americans who have cancer and the 16 million with coronary disease.

Rates of type 1 diabetes are perhaps the most telling. Data over the past forty years show that type 1 diabetes, a disease in which immune cells attack the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, has increased fivefold. The story regarding childhood-onset type 1 diabetes is more disturbing. Studies show that the number of children with type 1 diabetes is skyrocketing, with rates increasing 6 percent a year in children four and under and 4 percent in children aged 10 to 14.

Type 1 diabetes researchers insist that today’s rapid rise in this disease cannot be explained by either better diagnostics or by more people suddenly becoming genetically susceptible to type 1 diabetes; rather, a change in environmental factors is the “more plausible explanation.”

The average patient with autoimmune disease sees six doctors before attaining a correct diagnosis. Recent surveys conducted by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association reveal that 45 percent of patients with autoimmune diseases have been labeled hypochondriacs in the earliest stages of their illnesses. Some of this, no doubt, has to do with the fact that 75 percent to 80 percent of autoimmune disease sufferers are women, who are more easily dismissed by the medical establishment when hard-to-diagnose symptoms arise. In half of all cases, women with autoimmune disease are told there is nothing wrong with them for an average of five years before receiving diagnosis and treatment. Patients — most especially women — are often left feeling both confused and marginalized, or worse, labeled as psychosomatic malingerers.

Also from that article: the rates of autoimmune disease have been increasing in many industrialized countries, not just the U.S.. And autoimmune disease seems to be more associated with living in urban areas than rural ones. Rates of Type 1 diabetes in children under four years old  has increased six percent and four percent for older children — that is just not right, not traditional, and not fair to our children or their future world. They will have to take insulin shots for the rest of their  (potentially shorter than expected) lives.

If glyphosate inhibits CYP enzymes then it may be affecting the pancreas as CYP enzymes play a role in detoxifying toxins within the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer may be associated with malfunction of CYP enzymes in the pancreas.

Inhibition of the CYP enzymes might not be involved though, another reference suggests the CYP enzymes in the pancreas of patients with chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer are elevated — but maybe the levels are elevated because the enzymes are not functioning as normal and the body may be making extra to try to compensate for the malfunction – we don’t know what we don’t know until we learn it or admit that we already learned it a long time ago but have been in denial.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./