Clarification: These important decisions must be made in consultation with a mashpia/Rav and qualified doctor. Please do not use this forum as a basis for your healthcare decision.
I recently had an experience that I wish to share with my fellow Chassidim who are careful to fulfill the Rebbe’s instructions.
All expectant mothers who are careful to regularly see their care providers throughout their 9 months of pregnancy are familiar with the routine “fetal heart rate monitoring,” said to be one of the most important aspects of prenatal care.
Most care providers use a small handheld, cord-free device called a Doppler, which allows the care provider and the mother simultaneously to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
I was quite astonished to discover, in a book I was reading, that a Doppler actually functions using ultrasound technology!
I knew that the Rebbe was against routine ultrasound, so I have been careful to decline the offers of routine ultrasound testing, and only agreed to ultrasounds in cases of real medical need. However, it never occurred to me to decline a fetal heart check with a Doppler.
So I went to read “Healthy in Body, Mind and Spirit – Volume II,” written by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg and based on the teachings of the Rebbe on specific physical health issues and reproduction. This is what it brings up:
The Rebbe was against routine sonograms “Just to see the baby,” “Just to make sure everything is okay,” or “Just routine.”
The Rebbe only agreed to a sonogram if, as a result of the check up, specific action might be taken (if acceptable according to halacha and safe), and even then, only after a second opinion confirmed that a sonogram was necessary.
I did not feel that this clarified that issue for me, because I was still unsure: Was the Rebbe against ultrasound technology or the sonogram, the image that it produces?
So I called the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, who stated the above mentioned position in the Nshei Chabad Newsletter (Nissan 2001), to gain clarification.
Rabbi Groner’s answer was clear and without hesitation: The Rebbe was against the ultrasound technology, and therefore would also discourage the use of the Doppler.
(As an aside, I have learned that along with the Doppler, the fetal monitor that all labouring women are hooked up to as a matter of standard procedure when admitted to the hospital uses ultrasound technology in the same way.)
As a perfectly good alternative, an experienced practitioner should be able to use a fetoscope (a type of stethoscope designed for listening to the fetal heartbeat) instead of the Doppler during checkups.
Of course, the Rebbe does not need the support of science, but interestingly enough, a quick search on Google revealed a number of risks that science has discovered regarding the use of ultrasound during pregnancy…
I am grateful to Hashem that this information has helped me to better fulfill the Rebbe’s directive and hope you can benefit from it as well. I’ll conclude with the blessing the Rebbe would give to couples expecting a child: “May G-d grant that your entire pregnancy proceed to a normal and easy completion, and that healthy and viable offspring be born full term of a regular and easy birth.”
Response from Laurie Silberstein CM, MS, Certified Midwife
Clinical Systems Analyst – Stork, Clin Doc
Ultrasounds done is pregnancy can be beneficial. Understand the tests and reasons.
The 2nd trimester anatomy scan done by a trained sonographer and read by a maternal-fetal medicine physician can pick up problems and save lives.
Scans done in the office of your provider, are less beneficial as they depend on the skill of the individual and the accuracy of the machine. Most provider’s training on performing ultrasounds is limited, learned on the job.
Many providers do ultrasounds frequently to increase the billing of that visit. Always ask what the ultrasound is for, who is performing it, who is reading it, and what they want to learn from it.
Targeted ultrasounds for sound medical reason can be very beneficial to you and your baby. Fetal surgery, done during the pregnancy is an expanding field. Knowing a baby has a medical problem, such as cardiac defect (heart problem), and having the baby born in a hospital with a level 3 neonatal intensive care unit, experienced in dealing with the specific issue can save lives and reduce complications.
The ultrasound done at the end of pregnancy – known as the BPP, biophysical profile can save lives. It gives an indication of how the baby is doing by looking at the fluid around the baby, the baby’s movements, the placenta, along with monitoring of the heart. This gives an indication is the pregnancy can continue or if the patient needs to be delivered. This is helpful in many situations, such as uncertain dating or postdates (after the due date).
Be wary if an ultrasound is done every visit, especially in a low risk pregnancy. This may be to increase the reimbursement from the insurance company.
If a high risk pregnancy, ask if that specific ultrasound is really necessary. Some high risk MD’s use the ultrasound to check the heart rate routinely instead of the doppler.
Yes, midwives are trained to use fetoscopes and to use intermittent fetal monitoring during labor. Most physicians are not trained to do this, most labor and delivery units prefer the continuous fetal monitoring as they perceive a reduced medical -legal liability from having the continuous record and the ease of the nurse’s work to have the “strip” to document from.
Be an informed patient, understand the tests and the reasons and ask questions.
B Sha’a Tova.
— Chayenka Silberstein