Negotiating patient/family rights at an ultrasound facility
November 19, 2009 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Is there a medical or technical reason an ultrasound facility would specify that only one person can accompany the pregnant person during the ultrasound? (And if it turns out we must follow this policy, how could the third parent observe the ultrasound from the waiting room?)

(Anonymous only because we have friends who haven't heard our pregnancy news yet, and I don't want them hearing through internet-grapevines! Soon all will be nicely open for us. :))

I'm one of three people who are having a baby together. (Two of us are the biological parents, but the three of us are the parents -- love each other, live together, are committed to raising the child together.) Of course all of us are equally excited to be there for the ultrasound two weeks from now. But even understanding this, the one admin person we've asked so far (a receptionist, I think) apologetically said their policy is that only one person can accompany the pregnant person inside the room during an ultrasound.

This is a routine ultrasound for a healthy pregnancy. I'm wondering whether that policy is primarily meant to keep lots of family members from crowding into the room. I'm also guessing that at an ultrasound facility in a Northeast U.S. city, there must already have been some precedent for three people all having an equally valid interest in an ultrasound. (What about a surrogate mother plus the two bio-parents, or a lesbian couple who are including their known-donor in the parenting?)

So there two questions here, and I'd love your advice about either:

1) What should be our strategy for reaching, and for talking to, higher-up people at the office, so we can gently persist with this question? Clearly this is only the first of many such questions -- we need to know our rights and how to articulate them before there's any possiblity of an emergency situation (for example, if something went wrong during delivery and the non-bio parent found she suddenly wasn't allowed to be in the room). We're also asking other multi-parent families for advice, but I'm asking here because input from a more general audience (especially any medical people?) could be very useful.

2) If we really can't all be in the room this time: how can the third person, who would be there sitting in the waiting room, observe the ultrasound? (Could we at least record it with our own video camera, for later viewing? [I'm guessing live transmission of the video -- say if we brought one laptop inside the room and pointed its camera at the screen, transmitting to another laptop in the waiting room -- would not be allowed at the facility?])
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
At least with my ultrasounds, it was all recorded onto a DVD.
posted by k8t at 8:18 PM on November 19, 2009

My experience is that you will have no problems if you simply turn up and are polite.

The reason is almost certainly that the u/s rooms are generally quite small and only have a couple of chairs.
posted by unSane at 8:21 PM on November 19, 2009

Also, there are a ton of commercial ultrasound plaves that do 3D ultrasounds w. Live video, huge rooms, etc.
they generally don't allow these til 30-something weeks tho.
posted by k8t at 9:00 PM on November 19, 2009

Are you having the ultrasound done in the same facility in which you see your OB/GYN? If so, or even if not, can you ask the OB/GYN to give explicit permission for all of you to witness the ultrasound? As long as you politely explain your situation, you should be fine.
posted by amyms at 9:02 PM on November 19, 2009

If this is a separate ultrasound facility where you have no connection (i.e. it's not your OB/GYN's office or similar), the three of you walk in politely like unSane says. If the room is truly too small to physically accommodate you, someone should leave, because it's not fair to crowd the ultrasound tech. If they try to throw one of you out, politely ask why. If they don't have a good reason, all three of you walk out and go elsewhere. It's not as though there aren't hundreds of ultrasound machines in any major Northeastern city.

You are the customers here, and as with any business, it is your right to leave and take your business elsewhere if you're getting jerked around.
posted by zachlipton at 10:04 PM on November 19, 2009

It's almost definately a space reason as they say. I work in an emergency department and our limit is 2 visitors per patient because if you don't draw the line somewhere people literally will pack out a cubicle and you can't get any work done at all.

We generally won't ask extra people to leave unless they're really in the way so if you all just turn up it's very unlikely you'll have trouble unless the room really IS a pigeonhole.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 10:42 PM on November 19, 2009

As with above space issue is quite key. Buuuut, remember the point of the scan, the sonographer is checking over your baby. From conversations with sonographers, this isn't always easy with one extra person in the room, let alone if you are friendly, polite. and give all indications you won't be one of these people who screech out every moment then it should be ok.

In the hospital I worked at the extra person had to stay out of the room until the sonographer had checked all the important bits.

Show you respect this and I think you'll be fine
posted by Tingle at 1:17 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ultrasound technologist here. My facility allows 2 people back, although I often make exceptions for another one or two. Right now we are being much more strict on the number of visitors, as part of slowing the spread of H1N1 flu. Normally, the reason for limiting visitors has to do with space, and overall distractions. Patients don't realize the number of details I'm watching for in an exam, and even increased ambient noises from more people in the room can become distracting. Distracted tech = more potential for overlooking the details.

That said, I think your best bet would be to call the department ahead of time, and briefly explain that there are 3 adults who are very much involved in this pregnancy, and would it be possible for an exception to be made so that everyone can see the ultrasound. If they say yes, great. If they say no, I would not advise taking it to another level of management, etc - perhaps try to schedule at a different facility instead. This will probably sound awful, but word gets around quickly, and you don't want to irritate the tech before you even get there. At all the places I have worked, there is an unspoken protocol where "nice" patients get more time and explanation for their OB scans, and "unpleasant" patients get the quick version. No difference in the images or their diagnostic value, but there can be a difference in my chattiness or in how many pictures you get to take home.

As for your second question, that would depend a lot on what machine and recording method the facility uses, and their policies on taping. Where I work, we don't have ultrasound machines that make DVDs. (Should be getting new machines one of these days, then we can record DVDs and/or flash drives.) We also do not allow patients to take their own pictures or recordings. It's a liability issue for the hospital - the patient can't have images that the radiologist (doctor who reads the ultrasound) did not have the opportunity to assess, and the radiologist only gets still pictures, not an entire taped study. That rule is very strictly kept here, no exceptions. Please keep in mind, though, this could vary greatly between facilities.

I hope it works out for all the parents to see the baby! And congratulations!
posted by dorey_oh at 1:59 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

In my experience, the 20-week sonograms took a surprisingly long time. Could the non-pregnant people take turns being in there?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:41 PM on November 20, 2009

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