Foetus parties: Womb with a view?

A 3D scan of a foetus in the womb 'People gather to look at scans of unborn babies'

The US tradition of having a baby shower to celebrate an impending birth is now commonplace in the UK. But "foetus parties", where people gather to view 3D and 4D scan pictures are also gaining in popularity.

In this week's Scrubbing Up, Prof Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, outlines her fears about the "commercialisation and the commodification of pregnancy and childbirth".

Births are becoming more complex. If we look at the age of mothers as an indicator of complexity, then in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the number of births to women aged over 40 years has increased by more than 50% since the start of the century.

With more mothers giving birth later in life, these mothers bring with them greater expectations and aspirations about childbirth.

Between 2001 and 2010, the number of births to women aged 40 or over rose by 71%.

This ageing of mothers means greater demands on maternity services as pregnancies to older women are more likely to involve complications, which demand more of midwives and others in the maternity team.

However, I think the worrying trend towards the commercialisation of pregnancy and trend in "foetus parties" can add to the burden and can increase the expectation for mothers which midwives then have to deal with.

There is a worry that supposed diagnostic scans are now being used for entertainment. Across the country services for "foetus" parties are popping up.

There are companies across the country that provide gifts for parties featuring images of the foetus from a fridge magnet for £3 to a teddy with 3D scan image for £15.

Some companies provide a champagne celebration scan package for £165 and a VIP scan package for £185. This is a far cry from the original purpose of ultrasound.

Foetal rights?

It was originally introduced as a screening tool to help early detection of babies with serious problems, allowing future planning of the pregnancy on the back of this.

Ultrasound is a vital technological support to women and professionals during pregnancy and, generally, aims to ensure that women can make informed decisions about their baby's future and that pregnancy management is tailored appropriately. For example, if a baby is found to be growing slowly a decision may be taken to deliver early.

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Does everyone have equal access to this celebratory technology?”

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However, the trend towards using ultrasound and technology via foetus parties as a "consumer tool" raises various ethical questions.

If a woman is celebrating much more overtly than she might normally do regarding a pregnancy at an early stage during the pregnancy and, then, at a later stage a serious problem emerges; a mother may need increased counselling after raising everyone's expectations of her pregnancy at a foetus party, only to learn of complications later on.

Also, does this escalate the thinking held by some that a foetus should have a life of its own before birth and, therefore, have rights of its own?

At the moment, UK law allows for the mother to make decisions on behalf of her baby until the baby is born. Using technology in this way seems to have the potential to upset this position and raises the spectrum of women being accused of doing wrong to their foetus, as happens in the USA.

Another issue that worries me is that there is the whole issue of the consumer society and who is able to access this new facility of having a 4D scan?

Does everyone have equal access to this celebratory technology or is it only something available to the better off and the rich and famous, leading to more class envy, alienation and a sense of inequity?

And last but not least, what about the foetus? Is this "yummy mummy" or WAG parenting taken to its absolute zenith and what does it do to the child being "branded" in this way?


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  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    How stupid to have a feotus party, has the world gone mad. To many scans are bad for you, and the baby. It's daft to buy lots of things before the baby is born, anything can happen, and it does. It's bad luck to buy a pram before the baby is born.. Give presents when the baby is born.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    There's something unseemly about 'foetus parties'. As a first time mum in my late 30's I told no-one except my husband until I was over 4 months pregnant & for a while after only my parents knew (in case it wasn't to be). Only family/ close friends saw the scans & then on request!Everyone's different but to celebrate before your baby's born seems akin to counting your chickens..

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Thank you for the explanation.
    I'm an American but I personally prefer to see the British spelling in print.Sometimes reduction & simplification make language a bit flat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    The reason so many words are different in American English is because of the English Spelling Reform movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many spellings were not standardized anyway, and others were simplified to remove unnecessary letters (like the o in foetus, the u in colour, etc)
    But by all means go on pretending it's because Americans are stupid. It's ironic to see you do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    134.beammeup :
    I wonder what will be the long term effects of these scans on a child in the future? "
    Good point.We don't really know for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    "Also, does this escalate the thinking held by some that a foetus should have a life of its own before birth and, therefore, have rights of its own"
    You bet it does.

    My daughter, who is in her 20's, told me that she truly believes this technology will lead to the abolition of feticide/abortion within her lifetime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    What a load of utter tripe. Since when does to BBC publish such nonsense about complete non-issues?

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    PAHAHAHA! 'People gather to look at scans of unborn babies'
    I don't find this disturbing, I find it HILARIOUS!!! :')

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Surely Champagne scan packages and the like will take place privately, thus reducing the cost to NHS departments. Isn't this is a good thing, to remove some of the pressures already on birth units?

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Spell checker and internet are evil american conspiracy's for dumb downed people to use z's (zees or zeds) instead of s's.

    We should abolish the letter Zed from the English Language forthwith

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    It seems the contributors are having an english vs american spelling contest today.

    @Pachnoda: specter is the american spelling of spectre. If this contributor was american, then, really, you're just being a bit of a prat. (Even if they are, let's face it, you're still being a prat.)

    To answer the spectre vs spectrum debate, the word spectrum was used quite correctly in context in the article.

  • Comment number 147.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    What a nasty spiteful lot you are. Normal to be excited about expecting a wanted baby. Most women bond with their unborn baby, a loss will cause grief. At least they have a photo of the foetus to keep. How selfish are you if you cannot share in the excitement of your friends happy event, maybe it took the spotlight from you. Agree not newsworthy item. Why are we not able to comment on all items

  • Comment number 145.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    in 'less' sophisticated countries (i.e than other than loud america) they think it is bad luck to get all hyped up until the baby is born

    baby come home

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    These private scans are done by consultants/radiographers, many of whom also work in the nhs then offering 3d scans at private clinics to eligable women on the side. If the nhs had contracts to prevent professionals moonlighting, the private scan industry would have to be regulated. Nhs consultant pay isnt that low, and thats where the private sector is getting its feed from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Having suffered the trauma of a still birth at 29 weeks and a late miscarriage at 24 weeks, whilst not wanting to spoil anyones natural joy I would definately advise strongly against big celebrations until the baby is safely in your arms. Being excited is natual but don't allow that excitement to over rule common sense. This is commercialisim gone mad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    I earn £30K. I live in a small 2 bed starter home, not the ten bedroom detached farmhouse I'd like. I don't hear any serious calls to ban 10 bedroom farmhouses as they cause "class envy, alienation and a sense of inequity"

    Prof Cathy Warwick (doubtless earning a lot more than me) should maybe stick to clinical issues and stay away from socialist crusading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    The term "criminally stupid" springs to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I have been a midwife for many years and I am with beammeup, We don't know what effect all these scans are having. When I started the pelvis of a small mother would be x-rayed to see if the baby's head would fit through. Also has this piece been edited by the BBC, or did Cathy Warwick really write foetus. I was taught fetus in 1976, and we weighed babies in kilos back then too.


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