When to Have a Pregnancy Ultrasound?
It can be hard to believe that you're carrying a child during the first stages of pregnancy when there's no visual proof just yet. A pregnancy ultrasound can put all that to rest though, as well as provide your doctor with sufficient information.
It can be hard to believe that you're carrying a child during the first stages of pregnancy when there's no visual proof just yet.
A pregnancy ultrasound can put all that to rest though, as well as provide your doctor with sufficient information. It allows them to monitor your baby's growth, predict when you're due, check the positioning and even guess your unborn child's gender.
What Are The Reasons Pregnant Women Are Advised To Have An Ultrasound?
A pregnancy ultrasound is more than just a tangible proof that you'll soon become a parent. It's used in various stages throughout pregnancy, and more if you experience complications1.
An ultrasound is commonly used to determine the baby's sex and as a keepsake for the parents. Couple this with a pregnancy keepsake, and you can proudly hang it on the wall for everyone to see.
An ultrasound serves the following purposes during the first trimester:
- an examination of the cervix, ovaries, uterus and placenta
- checking the baby's heartbeat
- visual evidence that you're pregnant
- determine the baby's gestational age and predict the due date
- diagnose an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage
- check for anything abnormal
- confirm multiple pregnancies
In the second and third trimester, an ultrasound can serve the following purposes:
- measure the cervix's length and amniotic fluid levels
- determine the baby's gender
- monitor the position and growth
- check for problems, such as placenta previa, Down syndrome characteristics, pregnancy tumors, blood flow and structural abnormality.
- as a requirement for other tests, like amniocentesis
- check for birth defects or congenital abnormality
- check intrauterine death
The Difference Between a Transabdominal and Vaginal Ultrasound
Anytime your doctor orders an ultrasound exam it can either be transabdominal or transvaginal.
Transabdominal means that the scan will be done through the abdomen, while transvaginal will mean the scan will be through the vagina.
The type of pregnancy ultrasound will depend on what kind of information your doctor will be scanning for2. The method of conducting the pelvic ultrasound can be done the following ways:
Transvaginal. A thin and long transducer will be covered with a latex sheath and conducting gel, then inserted into the vagina.
Transabdominal. The transducer is covered with a conductive gel and is placed on top of your abdomen.
More often than not, an ultrasound usually means a transabdominal ultrasound. Here, the doctor uses a rounded or flat transducer device to scan and collect information. A transabdominal scan provides a wider view of the general pelvic area, while a transvaginal is used to check a smaller area in greater detail.
It's not unusual for your doctor to first recommend a transabdominal ultrasound, then follow it up with a transvaginal exam to check a particular area and get more information.
The patient's comfort level is an important aspect to consider during a pregnancy ultrasound. If you're uncomfortable with the idea or experience distress with the idea of an internal exam, make sure to bring it up so you and your doctor can explore other solutions.
How Many Times Does a Pregnant Woman Get an Ultrasound Throughout Pregnancy?
Your doctor will order two standard ultrasound scans- one about 12 to 14 weeks in, and the other about 18 to 20 weeks in.
A pregnancy ultrasound can be scheduled anytime for medical reasons, including monitoring your baby's growth, the location of the placenta and when you experience unusual discharges and cramping.
Two ultrasound sessions is the minimum number of times you can get. Early cramping or bleeding will normally warrant an ultrasound in order to check if everything's normal. Doctors will usually check for an ectopic pregnancy, a condition where the fetus has formed outside the uterus whenever unusual signs occur. Unfortunately, the pregnancy is not viable and can prove to be dangerous.
An impromptu ultrasound can still be scheduled in the later stages of pregnancy. Your doctor will want to order one to see if your baby is growing too big or too small. There are cases when pre-eclampsia, or a condition where the mother experiences high blood pressure, or gestational diabetes occurs, and these will warrant a further check-up.
Women who have a history of preterm births can benefit from a transvaginal ultrasound to see if the cervix is the right size, which can be useful in predicting premature labor.
Also, if you're expecting twins then expect to get more ultrasound counts. Identical twins share the same placenta, and thus need constant surveillance to ensure a normal delivery. Your doctor can order ultrasounds each week for while you're 16 to 28 weeks in to see if there's balance and not one baby is hogging the resources.
How Safe is an Ultrasound Procedure?
Expectant mothers should have nothing to worry about when getting a pregnancy ultrasound. The transducers emit zero radiation and there are virtually no risks involved in both methods.
Moms may feel mild discomfort in the area where they're being scanned due to the pressure. This technique is one of the most time-honored ways to look at a baby's growth inside his or her mother's womb. A typical ultrasound scan involves soundwaves that create an image of the baby in motion, which is then displayed on a screen.
The test is simple and generally safe. However, having it done for no medical reason is not recommended. Those who have an allergy to latex will want to avoid a transvaginal scan.
The procedure itself is safe, but an untrained personnel can miss an abnormality or provide false assurances. Thus, it's important to have a trained medical professional do the scan and interpret the findings correctly.
Ultrasound is a constantly evolving technology, and the tests themselves will still have a chance of not being fully accurate. In terms of allowing doctors to check the fetus and its condition, an ultrasound cannot be beaten.
Some healthcare facilities now offer high-quality 3D and even 4D ultrasound tests so doctors can easily see if the baby is healthy and if there are no defects or abnormalities. These images go well with KeaBabies baby sonogram picture frame for a timeless memento.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Lindsay Hudson
Lindsay is a freelance writer who is mom to a lovely daughter. She loves dressing in matching outfits with her daughter and bringing their 2 dogs out for their daily walk.