An essential part of Prenatal Care
For many Moms-to-be, a first ultrasound is a life-changing experience. As a medical procedure, it is one that patients look forward to. A fetal ultrasound or sonogram is an imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of a baby in the uterus. An ultrasound can help your doctor evaluate your baby’s growth and development as well as gauge the progress of your pregnancy. Your first ultrasound will typically be done between 18 and 20 weeks, but you may have one before 12 weeks to confirm your due date. You may also have an earlier ultrasound — or more than one — if yours is a high-risk pregnancy, if you have any pain or bleeding, if you have a history of having children with birth defects, or if another prenatal test or exam shows something abnormal. In addition, you’ll have additional ultrasounds if you have a chronic illness such as diabetes or a history of ovarian cysts or fibroids. A first trimester ultrasound exam is done to evaluate the presence, size, and location of your pregnancy. It also helps your doctor to evaluate any problems, screen for abnormalities, or confirm a diagnosis. If your baby’s health needs to be monitored more closely,
24 | Oh BABY!
additional ultrasounds will be recommended. What happens during an ultrasound? After you lay down on the exam table, a small amount of gel is applied to the skin of your abdomen. A device called a transducer is applied to your skin, sending highfrequency sound waves into your body that reflect off the internal structures. The echoes are received by the transducer and turned into a picture on the screen. All fetuses are approximately the same size in the early weeks of pregnancy, so a sonogram allows your doctor to approximate your due date. If you have your sonogram between 7 and 13 weeks, your doctor can set your due date within about 3 days! A mid-pregnancy ultrasound is done at around 20 weeks. This sonogram is also called the anatomy scan. Your doctor will listen to the baby’s heartbeat, check for physical abnormalities, check the organs, determine if there’s more than one baby (twins!), measure the amount of amniotic fluid, check the location of the placenta, and measure your baby to be sure he or she is the right size for his or her gestational age. And yes – determine the sex of your baby…This is the exam where you can catch a glimpse of your baby – and go home with a picture or two! When properly done, an abdominal ultrasound poses no risk to you or your baby. In fact, there are many benefits to checking on your baby’s development during pregnancy. It is generally advised that an ultrasound be performed only if medically indicated.