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TWIN FALLS — After finding out she was pregnant, Kelci Kelly wanted to know the sex of her baby earlier than the traditional 20-week mark.

She went to an elective ultrasound studio in Boise. That sparked an idea: opening her own studio in Twin Falls.

Now, First Glimpse 4D — on Blue Lakes Boulevard North in the same shopping center as Tradesmen Staffing and Goodwill — has been up and running for nearly three years.

Kelly — who’s a hair stylist in addition to being the owner of First Glimpse — said she received training in ultrasound technology, but didn’t have prior experience in the medical field. There are things she’s not authorized by law to do, she said, such as measurements or diagnosing birth defects. The studio isn’t for diagnostic ultrasounds.

“We’re just here to do the fun ones,” she said, describing herself as “like a photographer, but in an ultrasound.”

First Glimpse offers an early prediction blood test starting at nine weeks into a pregnancy and an ultrasound starting at 16 weeks to determine the sex of a baby. The option draws clients from all over the Magic Valley and as far away as Elko, Nev.

There’s a trend nationwide among soon-to-be parents wanting to find out the sex of their baby earlier. Here in Twin Falls, a couple of ultrasound studios — including First Glimpse 4D and First Peek 4D Ultrasound — offer elective ultrasounds. But across the country, there’s some debate over “keepsake ultrasounds” and some health organizations — including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and American Pregnancy Association — don’t recommend them.

First Glimpse has plans to move to a bigger location — an office on Martin Street — around Jan. 1. In addition to offering its current services, “I want to start doing gender (reveal) parties over there,” Kelly said.

Soon-to-be parents can choose from packages — which range from $50 to $140 — that include options such as listening to the baby’s heartbeat, sex determination, printed photos, a USB with photos, heartbeat clips, heartbeat animals (a stuffed animal with a recording of the baby’s heartbeat inside), a USB of the ultrasound paired with music and “gender poppers” that have pink or blue confetti.

“I’d say more of the demand right now is the gender blood test,” Kelly said, adding it has been offered for years in bigger cities.

A licensed phlebotomist comes in once every week or two to First Glimpse. It’s a simple blood draw from the mother’s arm or hand. Blood is sent off to a laboratory and results come back in two to four business days.

A 2011 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found fetal DNA tests conducted carefully were 95 percent accurate at seven weeks and 99 percent at 20 weeks, according to a New York Times story.

At St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center, expectant parents typically find out the sex of their baby at a 20-week anatomy ultrasound, hospital spokeswoman Michelle Bartlome said. The hospital uses 2D, 3D and 4D imaging.

“Fetal ultrasound is the safest way to check for problems and get details about your fetus,” the St. Luke’s Health System says on its website. “It can find things such as the size and position of the fetus. It does not use X-rays or other types of radiation that may harm your fetus.”

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns expectant parents about keepsake ultrasounds.

“Although there is a lack of evidence of any harm due to ultrasound imaging and heartbeat monitors, prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important,” FDA biomedical engineer Shahram Vaezy said in a statement on the FDA’s website. “Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles (cavitation) in some tissues.”

The American Pregnancy Association also addresses the topic on its website. “In most major cities across the country, commercial keepsake ultrasound services are opening, offering to give families a sneak preview of their growing baby,” the association says. “Although these services might create special memories and an opportunity to determine the baby’s gender, the use of ultrasound for non-medical purposes is not recommended.”

Ranae Davison, an ultrasound technologist with First Peek, said there’s no proven evidence ultrasounds cause harm.

As for keepsake ultrasounds, “some people are definitely against them,” she said. “An extra one or two ultrasounds in your pregnancy is really not much at all. Everyone’s going to have their opinion.”

Some expectant mothers have diagnostic ultrasounds weekly to address medical problems, Davison said, adding that’s not harming their baby. But First Peek, she said, certainly wouldn’t recommend having elective ultrasounds that often.

Davison — who grew up in Hagerman — lives in Boise and travels to the Magic Valley a couple of times a month. There’s also an ultrasound technologist based in the Magic Valley who works for First Peek.

Davison and her husband took over ownership of First Peek about a year-and-a-half ago. First Peek’s sister company, Allied Imaging, provides mobile diagnostic imaging.

Davison has been a registered ultrasound technologist for 18 years and has experience in diagnostic ultrasound imaging. Not all keepsake ultrasound studios nationwide, though, have registered technologists.

It’s important for people doing ultrasounds to receive proper training, Davison said. “I think there’s a really big difference in that.”

First Peek offers several Magic Valley packages for clients, including a “first peek” ultrasound for at least eight weeks into a pregnancy ($59), gender reveal ($79) and 3D/4D ultrasound 28-32 weeks into pregnancy ($99). Many sessions include memorabilia such as printed images, a DVD of the ultrasound session and heartbeat recording.

The “ultimate baby shower” package ($150) includes the option of having an ultrasound technologist travel locally to you.

“It’s a nice option,” Davison said, “because then you’re kind of in the comfort of your own home.”

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