The effect of ultrasound testing during pregnancy on pregnancy termination and the sex ratio at birth in India

Fred Arnold, Macro International Inc.
Sulabha Parasuraman, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)

The easy availability of ultrasound testing for pregnant women in India has facilitated the expansion of sex-selective abortion. However, the limited availability of reliable information on the extent of ultrasound testing during pregnancy, the characteristics of women who undergo ultrasound testing, and the use of ultrasound for sex selection has seriously constrained research in these areas. The 2005-2006 National Family Health Survey provides a unique set of data on the use of ultrasound for a nationally representative sample of 70,000 pregnancies. Women undergoing ultrasound during pregnancy have an abnormally high sex ratio at birth (117.8). The elevated sex ratio appears to be entirely the result of ultrasound testing followed by sex-selective abortion since the SRB is normal for women not using ultrasound. Nevertheless, the data provide strong evidence that a large majority of ultrasound tests are for diagnostic monitoring of the pregnancy and not for the purpose of sex selection.

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Presented in Session 22: Abortion in India