Pregnancy can sometimes be the most frustrating kind of exciting. Once you’re done puking your brains out and it becomes more and more clear that you are actually pregnant and not just storing up an extra layer for winter, it can begin to feel like your rude little baby is taking forever to finish cooking. You just want to meet them.
That’s why ultrasounds are such an exciting milestone in pregnancy. While you wait for your newest family member to come join you, you can at least enjoy looking at pictures of them in utero. But what if that ultrasound wasn’t really your baby? What if it was a bait-and-switch baby or just a picture of stock fetus No. 11? A group of moms in Canada says that’s just what happened to them, and they want other moms to be on the lookout for swindling sonographers.
The thing with ultrasounds is this: Like potato chips, one is rarely enough to keep you satisfied until the end of your pregnancy. Usually, though, that’s about all you’ll get from your insurance and doctor, assuming your pregnancy has no complications that require further visual monitoring of the fetus. Which, of course, yay. But sometimes moms and their partners will want a little extra something to tide them over until the baby finally comes along.
All the Toronto moms in question got their ultrasounds done at a place called BabyView in Pickering, Ontario. You might be familiar with the way outlets like Babyview operate. They’re stand-alone, third-party imaging centers that perform so-called 3-D or 4-D ultrasounds when your doctor and insurance cut you off. Of course, it’s not exactly cheap. Extra photos of your sea-monkeyesque fetus come with a $50 to $228 (CDN$65 to $299) price tag.
For that price, you’d at least expect that the baby you’d be fawning over is yours. But at least 20 parents recently noticed that something was way off about their images. And by “off,” we mean these parents allege that the images are identical to other parents’ pictures or were pulled directly from a stock image.
It all seems to have begun with a mom named Jenn Cusimano, who posted a picture of her newest 4-D ultrasound image from BabyView in a group page on Facebook. She was immediately contacted by another mom in the group who said that she had the same image:
From there, the situation appears to have blown up. People came forward with more of that same image, and it quickly became apparent, at least to the moms, that a lot of their ultrasound pictures weren’t just similar to one another’s — they were dead ringers for the sample babies BabyView kept pictures of on its site as an example of what each stage of development looked like. One user in the private group set up for scammed parents sarcastically quipped, “We are the proud parents of Baby 19,” referring to the 19th baby on the sample page.
For its part, the company has chalked up the similarities among photos to a technical glitch, in a rambling apology posted to its own Facebook page:
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Obviously this is really ugly on a few different levels. If these photos are indeed the same photos, then moms were duped by someone looking to make some fast cash.
If this news isn’t enough to make you wonder if you really need to set up an appointment, it bears noting that many doctors urge women away from stand-alone sonogram shops. The consensus among health care professionals is to just avoid novelty imaging operations. They aren’t medically necessary, and doctors worry that even trained sonographers will get caught up in the excitement and miss legitimate potential complications.
Now it looks like the entire idea of people exploiting the tumult of emotions in pregnancy could be a little darker. Even if BabyView never scammed its customers (again, the allegations are still just that at this point), it’s kind of a surprise that something like this hasn’t come up already. After all, as Adeel Mir, the owner of BabyView, told Toronto Sun, “Before 22 weeks, all babies will look similar.”