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How true is claim MRIs show scary images of babies?

Claim: Ultrasounds are recommended instead of MRIs because MRIs show scary images of babies. 

It may be true that MRIs show scary images of babies, it is not the reason ultrasounds are recommended for pregnant women. 

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An Instagram page for new mums @wives_and_mothers shared the screenshot of a tweet with the claim that MRIs show scary images of babies and that is why pregnant women get ultrasounds. 

The post shared with the caption “What? Just leave our ultrasound for us Abeg,” left several users in its comment section stunned. 

“Fun fact of the day: the reason pregnant people get ultrasounds and not MRIs, is that in an MRI, this is what the foetus looks like,” the tweet in the screenshot read. 

Screenshot of Instagram post by @wives_and_mothers.

Does this tweet exist? Was this claim made? If the tweet exists, is the claim true or not? These questions prompted us to verify the claim. 

Verification

To establish this screenshot was from an actual tweet, we searched Twitter and found the original tweet by fronk (@dhomochameleon). 

Screenshot of the original Tweet. 

In the comment section, he said he first heard of this on TikTok and provided a link to the TikTok video. The speaker in the video said the scary images are apparently the reason why doctors use ultrasound for pregnant women, not MRI.

Screenshot of the TikTok video. 

What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive imaging technology that produces three-dimensional detailed anatomical images. Most MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets. 

When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns water molecules in your body. Radio waves then cause these aligned atoms to produce faint signals, which are used to create cross-sectional MRI images

On the other hand, diagnostic ultrasound, also called sonogram or diagnostic medical sonography, is an imaging method that uses sound waves to produce images of structures within the body. The images can provide valuable information for diagnosing and directing treatment for a variety of diseases and conditions.

An ultrasound allows your doctor to see problems with organs, vessels, and tissues without needing to make an incision. Because ultrasound does not use radiation like other imaging techniques, it’s the preferred method for viewing a developing foetus during pregnancy.  

Most people associate ultrasound scans with pregnancy because it is the most common imaging exam used during pregnancy, but it has many other uses like viewing the bladder and brain (in infants).

This article notes that MRIs are requested when ultrasound does not provide a clear answer, or if other parts of your body need to be imaged, 

A keyword search on what an MRI scan of a baby looks like showed similar images. Articles here, here, and here also show similar MRI images of babies. 

Screenshot of search results.

Experts Opinion

A senior registrar at the National Hospital Abuja, Jeremiah Agim, confirmed MRI images of babies look like this but that is not the reason doctors use ultrasounds.

“Yes they look like this on MRI. The look is not the reason for the choice of ultrasound scan. That’s false,”  said the registrar.

He explained MRIs have a better soft tissue delineation than ultrasound scans and are often used in pregnancy as an adjunct when additional information is required after an ultrasound scan. 

He also noted, “MRI is very expensive, the movement of the foetus might reduce image quality and it takes a longer time to do it than an ultrasound scan.”

Okpanachi Achile, a medical officer at  Rehoboth Specialist Hospital Lokoja, also agrees that the kind of image MRIs show is not the reason ultrasounds are used for pregnant women.

“MRI is actually more detailed than ultrasound but not routinely done for pregnancy. But this can’t be the main reason ultrasound is preferred. Ultrasound is cheaper,  accessible and can give most information you would require.”

A gynaecologist at Garki Hospital Abuja, Sunday Idoko, also noted that MRI images look like this but that is not the reason for the use of ultrasound. 

“Yeah, it looks true. But of course they will tone it down to make it look more scary,” he said. 

Speaking on the cost, the gynaecologist said an MRI costs N65,000, questioning why a person will choose to do an MRI for a baby when an ultrasound will do a good job.

“Ultrasound even gives you the advantage to do Doppler studies (the study of the heart and vessels),” he added.

Conclusion 

While it is true MRIs show scary images of babies, it is not the reason ultrasounds are recommended for pregnant women. This claim is, therefore, misleading. 

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