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Expectant mothers able to see 'ultra' sounds for free

December 15, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Cheryl Sprankle saw her third child for the first time Tuesday when she took part in a training program that included free sonograms.

"It was fine and everything went really well," said Sprankle, who is 20 weeks pregnant, as she pointed to a fuzzy-ultrasound image.

Sprankle is one of about 50 area women between seven and 20 weeks pregnant who signed up to receive free ultrasound exams at the Hagerstown Area Pregnancy Center at 109 W. Baltimore St., this week.

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"The response has been wonderful, they (volunteer patients) are helping train our nurses so they can perform this limited-ultrasound procedure," said Lori Sines, the center's executive director.

With the help of volunteers like Sprankle, center nurses are able to perform ultrasounds on live patients and complete the required hands-on training in using the center's new ultrasound machine.

In October, the center received a $24,000 grant from Focus on the Family to buy the ultrasound equipment. The nonprofit Christian organization, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., launched a nationwide program in January offering grants to purchase ultrasound machines at pregnancy centers around the country.

Once the center's nurses have completed their training, Sines said, the center hopes to start offering limited ultrasounds by the end of next month. Training is expected to end on Friday. Sines said plenty of volunteers have signed up so the training can be completed.

In the future, the procedure will be offered at no cost to patients who meet certain criteria, including the stage of pregnancy, she said.

"It's used to diagnose a pregnancy and determine pregnancy viability. A limited ultrasound is not intended as a procedure to get the sex of the baby or to just view the baby on the screen," she said.

Patients may contact the center to determine if they qualify for the procedure.

Sines said limited ultrasounds will give pregnant patients an early start toward seeking prenatal care and other community resources.

"The earlier you diagnose, you decrease the rate of birth defects," Sines said.

Sprankle, who received ultrasounds when pregnant with her other two children, said the procedure is critical in identifying unforeseen health conditions and to monitor her baby's growth.

The center will continue to offer free pregnancy testing, counseling, and sex education, Sines said.

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