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Sonogram Parties Are Popular, But Doctors Frown on Practice

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Chad Berry and his wife Camie of Fort Meyers, Fla., know from personal experience that having a baby is a miracle -- their own daughter is living proof.  Madisyn, now 14, was born after they lost five, two to ectopic pregnancies and three in miscarriages.

So today, they offer a "glimpse of your little miracle" in a low-cost ultrasound to couples who want to celebrate the joy of pregnancy in their own homes or at celebratory venues.

Camie Berry, 38, is a certified sonographer and her husband, who used to work as a lab technician, runs the business side of Miracles Imaging.  The couple is tapping into one of the latest trends in pregnancy, one that has been growing in popularity over the last several years -- sonogram parties.

Women who opt to get a 3-D image of their child at 23 weeks, moving and showing facial expressions, say they are a fun way to share the excitement of pregnancy.

As finger food and drinks are passed around the room, the mother-to-be stretches out on an examining table while the technician moves a wand across her belly.  Imaging equipment is hooked up to a TV screen or computer monitor for all the room to see.

Chad Berry, 37, said that the services he and his wife offer should never replace routine medical care, but it can be a more affordable way to see a 3-D image not taken during a routine prenatal exam.

A hospital-based ultrasound might cost up to $800 or more locally, according to Chad.  "We can do it 70 percent off because we run a small clinic," he said.

But medical experts caution against the experience.  The American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Food and Drug Administration, strongly discourage having ultrasounds purely for entertainment and not for a medical reason.

An ultrasound provides reassurance and some useful information for doctors on fetal development -- to confirm dates, detect a heartbeat and to check for certain genetic defects.

According to Austin, Texas, pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown, there is no "requirement" to have an ultrasound during a normal pregnancy and is up to a practitioner to determine if the woman is at high risk -- usually carrying multiples or a history of pre-term labor or diabetes.

"Some doctors don't do any," she said.

"Yes, it is pretty cool to see your baby that way, but not necessary," said Brown, the author of Expecting 411.

"In our book, we discourage couples from going to the mall and getting glamour-shots style ultrasounds," she said.  "There is no certainty of the technician's training or if the machine is properly maintained.  And, some of these photo shoots last three to four hours.  It is not worth the risk of exposing your unborn baby to several hours of sound waves and excess heat."

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ABC News Radio