Long ago—in the not-so-distant past of, say, 2009—the gender reveal party worked something like this: parents-to-be would show up for the typical second trimester ultrasound and ask the ultrasound tech to check the gender and place this information in a sealed envelope. The couple then gave the envelope to a baker, with instructions to make a cake filled with either pink or blue frosting. Next, friends and family were invited over, the cake was cut, and surprise! Everyone found out at once it's a boy or a girl.
Fast forward to 2013, and gender reveal parties are more popular than ever, with one important difference: the guest of honor. Instead of secret envelopes and surprise cakes, at a growing number of these parties, parents-to-be are now inviting ultrasound technicians into their homes, portable equipment in tow, to give partygoers a real-time experience.
And couples are willing to pay for this unusual kind of party entertainment. As Today Moms reports, many licensed ultrasound techs across the country have formed party side businesses, with pricing for their mobile services running from $100-$600—and up.
"It's more of an experience and less of an in-and-out procedure," licensed ultrasound tech Teena Gold tells Today Moms about her Arkansas-based 3-D ultrasound party business. Gold points out that medical ultrasounds often do not allow parents to "savor the wonder of the life growing inside them," which is something she says she can better provide in an at-home setting. It doesn't have to be in the context of a party, either. Gold also performs at-home scans when it's just the couple themselves who will have their eyes on the screen.
It sounds like fun, and sure one-ups the ultrasound scan posted on Facebook. But are party ultrasounds a good idea? Safe?
The FDA has officially taken an "unapproved" position on keepsake ultrasound videos and images. Though ultrasound technology is generally considered safe, as Dr. Amber Sills, an OB/GYN from Bentonville, Ark., points out, ultrasounds are intended to diagnose chromosomal disorders, malformations, and to aid in estimating fetal weight or the amount of amniotic fluid—not for entertainment value.
"Revealing gender has never been a reason to do an ultrasound," she tells Today.
There's also the question of what else the sonographer might found while performing the scan. "What if the ultrasonographer started the ultrasound and there was no heartbeat?" asks Dr. Sills.
Gold and other ultrasound techs offering party services say they speak privately with the couple if anything worrisome shows up during the ultrasound. They also agree to schedule a party only when parents have had reassurance from their doctor or midwife that their pregnancy is progressing normally. So, time to dim the lights and let your guests in on the inner workings of your womb?
"I think I'll pass," says Anne Piccolo, a New York mom-to-be who likes the idea of gender reveal parties, but thinks, "having an ultrasound in front of my guests, even though I love them, seems to be crossing an oversharing line that I just don't want to."
"Plus," she adds, "I'm very superstitious person!"