Good-to-Know Facts About a Pregnancy Ultrasound
One of the more exciting events during pregnancy is the opportunity to have an ultrasound (sometimes called a sonogram). This imaging technology uses a transducer to emit sound waves. The echoes are used to create an image of your baby and other anatomy while in the womb. You will also be able to hear his heart beat. Most medical providers will provide a print-out with several images of your baby so you can take it home and show him off!
Time for an ultrasound
A prenatal ultrasound is typically performed during the second trimester between 16-20 weeks, but can be done earlier or later as well. Every pregnant woman will have at least one ultrasound at her prenatal visits to measure the growth and health of the baby. Whether you will require more ultrasounds depends on the health of your baby as well as the function and condition of your reproductive anatomy.
Different types of ultrasounds
Ultrasounds have been used during pregnancy for over 30 years and are very safe for both baby and mother. There are several kinds of ultrasounds:
- Transabdominal – This is the most common ultrasound given to pregnant women and is non-invasive. To have a transabdominal ultrasound, your provider will cover your lower abdomen with a special gel. This helps the sound waves travel better so the image is clearer. As the transducer is moved across your skin, the image of your baby appears on a screen.
- Transvaginal – For special situations, a transvaginal ultrasound may be required to see a more detailed image of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, or other areas of concern. To achieve this, a thin tube-like transducer is inserted into the vagina (or birth canal).
- Doppler – If your baby is not growing properly, your doctor may want to see a doppler ultrasound. This measures baby’s blood flow through the umbilical cord and blood vessels.
- 3D/4D – A 3-Dimensional ultrasound is an image comprised of thousands of pictures taken at once and shows clear features like a photograph. A 4D ultrasound has the added feature of watching your baby in motion.
Reasons for having a prenatal ultrasound
Ultrasounds tell physicians many important facts about the progression and health of your baby and the condition of the surrounding reproductive organs. You may have an ultrasound to determine:
- Whether you truly are pregnant.
- Gestational age – The age of the fetus, or how far along you are in the pregnancy.
- Birth defects – Many major abnormalities are visible on an ultrasound. A baby can begin treatment while still in the womb for some birth defects, such as spina bifida.
- Location and size of the placenta.
- Amount of amniotic fluid in the sac – Amniotic fluid surrounds your baby while in the womb. If you have too little or too much, it could indicate growth problems and increase the risk of early delivery.
- Baby’s weight and height – During the ultrasound, your baby’s limbs, skull, and organs will be measured to ensure he is growing properly.
- Baby’s position – If your baby presents feet-down (breech) in an ultrasound, your doctor may try to turn him or require a C-section to deliver the baby safely.
- Gender – After 14 weeks an ultrasound can show the sex of the baby. Be sure to tell your doctor ahead of time if you don’t wish to know if you are having a boy or girl!
- Problems with the ovaries and/or uterus.
- Pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, or more).
Ultrasounds during pregnancy can be very enlightening in assessing the health of mother and baby. It can also be so fun to “see” your baby for the first time and watch him wiggle!