A number of companies are selling elective ultrasounds that have little to do with neonatal health. The services, often in small offices or shopping malls, amount to fetal photo studios and use newer 3-D ultrasound technology to produce more realistic images than conventional machines.
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Parents-to-be typically pay from about $80 for a short ultrasound session primarily to determine the fetus’s sex to $300 for a half-hour session that is recorded on a videocassette or DVD and includes color photos.

While medical professionals warn of potential health risks from unnecessary ultrasounds, those who offer the elective examinations say they are safe and fulfill a need.

“Women love it,” said Matt Evans, a lawyer, who started his company, Baby Insight (baby -insight.com), about a year and a half ago. “They get to see their baby and have an emotional experience with their baby.”

Mr. Evans said his technicians have performed more than 2,000 ultrasounds at the company’s only location, in Potomac, Md. Baby Insight’s highest-priced package, for $260, includes a video with background music, one 8-by-10, two 5-by-7, and 10 wallet-size color photos, four announcement cards and a chance for friends and family members to view the ultrasound images as they are produced on a large screen in the company’s theater room.

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