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When Should You Pay Out-Of-Pocket For Pregnancy Ultrasounds?

If you've recently discovered you're expecting by seeing your baby's heartbeat on an early ultrasound at a place like EVDI Medical Imaging, you're likely excited to continue to observe your child's growth and development over the next nearly-ten months. However, not all insurance policies cover more than a couple of ultrasounds unless you're high-risk or have other potential complications, limiting your ability to seek regular ultrasounds without paying out-of-pocket. Read on to learn more about some of the potential risks of neonatal ultrasounds, as well as the factors you'll want to consider when going outside your insurance plan or coverage to have multiple ultrasounds performed over the course of your pregnancy.

Are prenatal ultrasounds risk-free?

When it comes to diagnostic testing and the ability to observe your baby's growth and development in utero, few procedures are as effective and low-risk as the ultrasound. Ultrasounds rely on sound waves to create a picture; by using a wand to focus these sound waves on parts of your abdomen, the ultrasound technician will be able to observe everything from your baby's growth rate to the condition of your placenta and even your volume of amniotic fluid. 

However, even this low-risk procedure isn't entirely risk-free, and because it's unethical to perform medical experiments on pregnant women or their developing fetuses, it can be hard for researchers to determine how much is too much when it comes to prenatal ultrasounds. Most hospitals and medical facilities will minimize their use of prenatal ultrasound testing to once or twice over the course of a pregnancy unless other risk factors are present that would require closer observation and monitoring, although the use of early ultrasounds to "date" the pregnancy and 4D ultrasounds at the end of the pregnancy are becoming more common in many areas. 

Doctors also caution against the use of ultrasound testing to create "keepsake" photos or memories, instead instructing their patients to get as many photos as they can out of the gender and development ultrasound that takes place during the second trimester. In general, ultrasounds should only be used for medical purposes, not entertainment ones.  

When may you want to pay out-of-pocket for extra ultrasounds?   

If your insurance policy is fairly conservative on the number of ultrasounds it will cover and you'd like to keep a closer eye on your baby during your pregnancy, you may want to consider paying out-of-pocket for any extra ultrasounds rather than skipping them entirely. However, if the reason you'd like to seek more ultrasounds is directly related to your baby's health or doctors have recommended more frequent monitoring, it's worth checking with your insurance company, as most will extend coverage to extra ultrasounds that are medically necessary according to your physician.

Some other situations in which you may want to choose this option include:

  • When you've previously had a stillbirth or miscarriage and are dealing with extra-high anxiety about your child's viability (since excess stress is far more likely to have negative effects on a fetus than multiple ultrasounds); 
  • When you've been in a car accident, fallen down, or had another sudden serious impact that could have affected your baby's safety or development; 
  • When you're not sure about your date of conception and are developing much more (or less) quickly than expected based on your projected due date; or 
  • When you're nervous about the delivery process and want to make sure your baby is in the right head-down position before you prepare to give birth or are induced. (Your doctor can often determine this through a physical examination instead.)

In these situations, an ultrasound can bring you much-needed peace of mind to help you relax and thoroughly enjoy your pregnancy.