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Midwifery leader expresses concern at 'foetus parties' trend


A midwifery leader has expressed concern about the “commercialisation” of pregnancy and the growing trend for expectant mothers to hold “foetus parties”.

Professor Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said such parties - where people gather to view 3D and 4D scan pictures that have been paid for privately - raise ethical questions.

In a Scrubbing Up column for the BBC News website, Prof Warwick said mothers now give birth later in life and bring with them greater expectations and aspirations about childbirth.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Prof Warwick said ultrasound is a screening tool to help detect babies with serious problems and ensure pregnancy management is tailored appropriately.

“For example, if a baby is found to be growing slowly a decision may be taken to deliver early,” Prof Warwick said.

“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.”

Prof Warwick also questioned whether it may escalate the thinking among some people that a foetus should have a life of its own before birth and, therefore, 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,” she said.

“Using technology in this way seems to have the potential to upset this position and raises the (issue) 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?”


Readers' comments (5)

  • Sounds to me like a madwife on a soap box here!

    Being 'branded' by being a fridge magnet is unlikely to damage a child.

    My own family like the scans of them in their photo albums.

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  • Well no it doesn't sound like a "madwife" on a soapbox, but well done for using your language deliberately to dismiss her comments. The points made are completely valid! The encouragement of pregnant women to have parties showing off pictures of the foetuses DOES encourage people to get excited long before they know about any potential problems with the baby. What if, after all this showing off, the woman miscarries? What if the baby later is shown to have any number of physical abnormalities and will dies shortly after birth, or will survive but only with significant medical intervention all the way through its life? These things are certainly bereavements, and these parties will only increase the stress of it.
    The article isn't really referring to foetuses who are carried to term and are healthy babies, it's talking about the ones who don't survive or are severely damaged, and the emotional impact that premature celebration will have on the woman.
    It also is referring to the rights of women vs the rights of the foetus and whether or not an unborn foetus has greater rights than the pregnant woman.
    "Anonymous" you've just focused on the last sentence and completely written off a totally valid article.

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  • I do think these women may be a bit naive the time to celebrate is when the healthy baby is born.

    On a trivial note I hope noone invites me to a foetus party it sounds very boring!

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  • The original article is here:

    It strikes me that the article is valid in it's observations about the increasing severity of trauma in the event of a future issue.

    I am concerned by what I interpret as a judgemental aspect to the writing. As if mothers shouldnt be excitedly showing people their scans because they were initially generated by a medical procedure. I agree that the scans shouldnt be done simply to enable them to be shown off but if they are done for a valid reason can we really judge expectant mothers for sharing them with friends and family?

    It seems to raise issues of whether medical professionals should be allowed to interfere into these womens lives outside that of the professional sphere as well as if it is morally correct for them to be acting in this way.

    Good talking point.

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  • Anonymous | 13-Jan-2012 12:29 pm

    You are obviously not a midwife. What an inane comment! It all appears to be exploitation of pregnant women to me, but only well-off pregnant women. No-one else could afford it.
    I agree that all this celebration prior to the event (delivery) xould lead to more trauma if events don't turn out as expected.

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