What is an ultrasound?
An ultrasound is also referred to in medical terms as a sonogram. This is a prenatal test that is offered to the majority of women who are pregnant. An ultrasound uses sound waves to create and show a picture of your baby while it is in the uterus, also known as the womb. Conducting an ultrasound will allow your health care provider to check on your baby’s health and development.
For most parents an ultrasound can be a very special part of pregnancy. It is the first time that you will be able to “see” your baby. Depending on the time that it is done and the position that the baby is in, you may be able to see his/her hands, legs and other body parts. You may also be able to tell if your baby is a boy or a girl, so if you don’t want to know the sex of your baby – be sure to let your provider know beforehand.
Most women will see their medical provider for their first ultrasound in their second trimester. This is typically at 16 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Some women will get a first-trimester ultrasound, which is also called an early ultrasound, before 14 weeks of pregnancy. Be sure to talk to your medical provider to find out when is best for you to get your first ultrasound.
Why is having an ultrasound important?
There are many reasons why your medical provider will use an ultrasound. They are very important to be able to keep up with your baby’s development and also to do several other things that include the following:
- To confirm pregnancy
- To check the growth and approximate age of the baby. This helps the medical provider figure out a due date
- To check the baby’s heartbeat, movement and overall development
- To see if the mother is pregnant with multiple children, ex: twins, triplets or more
- To screen for any possible birth defects
- To assist with other required prenatal tests
- To examine the mothers’ ovaries and the uterus (womb)
- To check for any pregnancy complications, including miscarriage
What happens during an ultrasound?
What happens during an ultrasound will highly depend on the kind received. That will also depend on what exactly your provider is checking on, and how far along the mother is in pregnancy. All different ultrasounds use a tool called a transducer which uses sound waves to create pictures of your baby on a computer monitor. Talk to your doctor to find out which ultrasound is best for you and your baby. The most common kinds of ultrasound are:
- Transabdominal ultrasound
- Transvaginal ultrasound
- Doppler ultrasound
- 3-D ultrasound
- 4-D ultrasound
What happens after my ultrasound?
For the majority of women, an ultrasound will show that the baby is growing at a normal rate. If your ultrasound comes back normal, your medical provider will suggest to be sure to keep up with routine prenatal checkups.
For some women, an ultrasound may show that the baby and mother need special care. For example, if the ultrasound shows that the baby has a birth defect, he/she may be treated in the womb before birth.
During labor if the ultrasound shows that your baby is breech, which means feet-down instead of head-down, the medical provider may try to flip the baby’s position to head-down. If this is unsuccessful, the medical provider may suggest the need to have a cesarean section, also referred to as a C-section. A C-section is a surgery in which the baby is born through a cut in your belly and uterus. Your medical doctor will be the one performing this surgery and will be able to walk you through it every step of the way.
No matter what an ultrasound happens to show, always talk to your provider about the best care for you and for the care of your baby.